This video from the Netherlands is called Summer in The Hague – Isaac Israëls (1865-1934). The part about Israëls starts after about three minutes.
Yesterday, 4 September 2012, I went to an exhibition in The Hague, of works of painter Isaac Israëls.
There are several parallels in the life of this well-known painter with the life of his contemporary, the now even better known painter Vincent van Gogh.
Both, when they started painting, were influenced by the The Hague School. In the 1860s-1880s, this was an innovative movement in Dutch art, influenced by the French Barbizon artists.
Here, we see also a difference between Isaac Israëls and Van Gogh: Israëls had an easier start as an artist. His father, Jozef Israëls, active in the The Hague School movement, was “the most respected Dutch artist of the second half of the nineteenth century”. Van Gogh’s father was not that artistic.
When Isaac was only 16, he sold his first painting, even before it was finished, to The Hague School artist and collector Hendrik Willem Mesdag. Van Gogh sold a painting to a colleague as well. However, that woman painter Anna Boch was not as well off as Mesdag, so presumably she paid a lot less.
And for Van Gogh, very differently from Isaac Israëls, that was the only painting he ever sold during his life. After the deaths of the artists, a lot changed in this.
This drawing by Israëls, “Woman with a headscarf” (I hope that people like Breivik or Wilders will never get to know about the drawing, else they would destroy this art work :) ) sold for £5,400 in 2011.
Now, some Isaac Israëls paintings sell for about $500.000. A lot; but much less than Van Gogh’s works fetch today, now that not the painter himself, but speculators profit from them.
Similarly to Van Gogh, Isaac Israëls traveled to England and France. And also to the Borinage mining region in Belgium, to get to know the miners’ lives.
Though both Israëls and Van Gogh had started in the The Hague School sphere, they both developed beyond that. Israëls was influenced by the 1880s Dutch literary avant-garde. And by the French impressionist painters.
These impressionists were also an influence on Van Gogh. Van Gogh is said to have gone further than them, starting “post-impressionism”.
The present Israëls exhibition is at four different museums and at the local archive in The Hague; each part of the exhibition specializes in one side of the artist’s work. I went to one of the five exhibition sites: Panorama Mesdag. The theme there is: Israëls’ depiction of women in his paintings, drawings, and watercolours.
An interesting part of Israëls depicting women is that he made a portrait of Dr Aletta Jacobs, probably the best known early twentieth century Dutch feminist. Unfortunately, that portrait was not at the Panorama Mesdag. Both Israëls and Jacobs were from Jewish families, originally from Groningen province in the north-eastern Netherlands. This may have made for a bond between painter and subject.
Women were a favourite subject for Israëls. The liking was mutual: he was even admitted in actresses’ dressing rooms and fashion houses’ fitting rooms. He also often depicted women on or around beaches, Scheveningen beach in the Hague, or beaches in Italy or elsewhere.
The exhibition will continue until 23 September.