Exhibition presents Paris as seen through the eyes and hearts of eight Dutch artists

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Exhibition presents Paris as seen through the eyes and hearts of eight Dutch artists
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Boulevard de Clichy, Paris, March - April 1887 (detail). Oil on canvas, 46 cm x 55.5 cm. Photo: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam / Vincent van Gogh Foundation.

AMSTERDAM.- In the spectacular exhibition The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914, the Van Gogh Museum presents the French capital as seen through the eyes and hearts of eight Dutch artists: Van Spaendonck, Scheffer, Jongkind, Kaemmerer, Breitner, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondrian. Their work – from large, iconic canvases to tiny pearls – is shown in this configuration for the first time along with work by their French contemporaries. At its heart is the inspiration Dutch artists found in Paris, their encounters with French artists and the impact this had on their art. The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 (a collaboration with Paris Musées / Petit Palais and the RKD – The Netherlands Institute for Art History) showcases more than a hundred and twenty works, among them many loans from museums and private collections worldwide.

In the nineteenth century, Paris – a hotbed of creativity with its exhibitions and art academies – held an almost magical appeal for artists from all over the world. Dutch artists were among the many who flocked to ‘the art capital of the world’ (a journey by stage-coach that took around five days; after 1847 Gare du Nord could be reached by train in a day) to study, to exhibit, to sell and to forge new contacts. Dutch artists met their French counterparts in academies like the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts (‘the arena for the very best’), in private studios and salons, in the street and in cafés. Inspired by this new world called Paris, they created cross-border works. Dutch artists like Jongkind, Breitner, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondrian met Monet, Degas, Signac, Pissarro, Cézanne, Braque and Picasso. Back and forth they inspired one another to develop new styles and techniques.

Dutch Inspiration
The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 reveals how this exchange came about and the impact it had on Dutch and French art. French artists influenced the work of Dutch artists, but in return the Dutch made their mark on French art. The Dutch artist Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819–1891), for example, worked with Monet, Boudin and Sisley on the banks of the Seine. He taught them to capture light on canvas. Monet wrote about him: ‘c'est à lui que je dois l'éducation définitive de mon oeil’ (it was he who finally taught me to look properly). Manet called him the father of the modern landscape.

Gerard van Spaendonck (1746–1822) was one of the founders of the Institut de France and for thirty-eight years had a workshop in the Jardin des Plantes where he trained hundreds of artists; he was the great source of inspiration for Bessa, Redouté, Van Dael and Knip. It was also Van Spaendonck who made the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting manner popular in nineteenth-century France.

Thanks to his contact with the Goupil gallery, Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer (1839–1902) became the ultimate Salon artist. In his time, he was one of the best-selling artists in Paris and he inspired his Dutch friends to paint fashionable, sophisticated scenes. Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) was inspired by Impressionists like Monet, Pissaro and Signac and gave advice to Emile Bernard. Kees van Dongen (1877–1968) was fascinated by the night life in Butte Montmartre, as Pablo Picasso had been a couple of years before. Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel and Piet van der Hem took Van Dongen’s work as the starting point for their Luminist experiments after 1906.

Piet Mondrian (1873–1944) looked for new inspiration in Paris. The work of the Cubists, among them Picasso and Braque, ‘showed him the way’ to develop his own, totally abstract idiom. Back in the Netherlands, the artists who had been in Paris inspired their fellow Dutch painters: George Hendrik Breitner (1857–1923) brought back French Impressionism, and this prompted Isaac Israels and Willem de Zwart to emulate him and begin to paint ballerinas and nudes, unusual subjects in the Netherlands at that time.

In The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 eight chapters, each devoted to a Dutch artist in Paris, also tell the eventful story of the French capital. The exhibition can be likened to a passionate love story between the Netherlands and France: painters transport viewers to an ever-changing Paris and show them the city through their eyes. With their scenes of the famous Haussmann boulevards, the parks and the studios, of new places of entertainment like the Moulin de la Galette and the Moulin Rouge and neighbourhoods like Montmartre and Montparnasse, the works of art chronicle the continuous development of the City of Light. It is fascinating to see how French painters adopted this Dutch approach in picturing their capital city. Past and present meet; today’s visitors to Paris will find some places are just the same, others have changed out of all recognition. The exhibition is more than a homage to a city and the geniuses it inspired; it honours a changed and ever-changing world. Visitors to the exhibition see the evolution of nineteenth-century art pass before their eyes.

The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 is a unique exhibition. More than a hundred and twenty works by great names (David, Géricault, Corot, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Van Dongen, Picasso, Mondrian, Cézanne and Braque) and lesser-known artists (Van Spaendonck, Van Dael, Scheffer, Tassaert, Jongkind, Sisley, Kaemmerer, Boldini, Boudin, Breitner, Signac, Sluijters, Jozef and Isaac Israels) hang side by side. The exhibition includes a selection of loans – from museums and private collections in France, the United States and elsewhere – many of them on show in the Netherlands for the first time.

A lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 tells the story of a white-hot artistic exchange through the experiences of Dutch artists who spent time in Paris. Together they shed new light on the melting pot that was Paris, where in the nineteenth century the foundations were laid for truly international art. The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 is published in Dutch and English in collaboration with the RKD – The Netherlands Institute for Art History – and the Petit Palais. Uitgeverij THOTH, 272 pages, € 29.90. A French edition is published by Paris Musées.

Artists Mapping
The RKD has developed a digital tool that can be used to locate the studios and home addresses of artists on the map. At rkd.nl (search function ‘Dutch in Paris’) you can follow in the footsteps of the Dutch artists who went to Paris between 1789 and 1914. An innovative animation based on this shows where Dutch artists lived and worked. This animation is part of the exhibition.

The Dutch in Barbizon at The Mesdag Collection and Van Gogh & La France
The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914 is part of Van Gogh & La France in 2017 in the Van Gogh Museum. From 27 October 2017 to 7 January 2018 the exhibition The Dutch in Barbizon: Maris, Mauve, Weissenbruch can be seen in The Mesdag Collection in The Hague – an additional chapter of The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914. Other successful exhibitions as part of this theme were Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh and Prints in Paris 1900.

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