Paris! In the 19th century – a time of revolutionary changes in politics, science, and art – Paris was a magnet for artists from all over Europe. New generations of artists left their native countries and headed to the place where it was all happening. For the grandly conceived exhibition The Dutch in Paris 1789 – 1914, curator Mayken Jonkman of the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History has conducted research for the Van Gogh Museum and is co-responsible for the choice and installation of the works of art. The carefully selected paintings present the French capital as seen through the eyes and hearts of eight Dutch artists. Their work – from large iconic paintings such as Boulevard de Clichy (1887) by Van Gogh to small pearls such as Ballet dancer (1886) by Breitner – will be shown for the first time in conjunction with work by their French contemporaries.
With its many creative breeding grounds, exhibitions, and art training options, Paris exerted a magical spell on artists from all corners of the compass throughout the entire 19th century. Dutchmen such as Scheffer and Jongkind ventured to ‘the art capital of the world’ with the purpose of exhibiting and selling their work, and forging new contacts. Dutch and French artists met up in art academies, private studios, salons, cafés, and on the grand boulevards. Inspired by friendship and a common background they literally and figuratively devised innovative, transborder works. Artists such as Jongkind, Breitner, Van Gogh, Van Dongen, and Mondrian developed new artistic styles and techniques jointly with Monet, Degas, Signac, Pissarro, Cézanne, Braque, and Picasso.
The Dutch in Paris explores how this exchange came about and the impact it had on both Dutch and French art. Not only did French artists influence Dutch artists, but conversely Dutch artists also left their mark on French art. For instance, Jongkind taught Monet, Boudin, and Sisley how to render light on canvas. Once back in the Netherlands, the Paris-goers in turn inspired their Dutch confrères: Breitner took French Impressionism home with him, which led Isaac Israels – like Breitner – to paint ballerinas and nudes; fairly unusual subjects in the Netherlands at the time.
In The Dutch in Paris 1789 - 1914, eight chapters, each devoted to a Dutch artist in Paris, tell the moving history of the 19th century in France. The exhibition reads like a passionate love story between the Netherlands and France: the painters usher the viewer to an ever-changing Paris and show it through their eyes and hearts. With their interpretation of Haussmann's famed boulevards, new places of entertainment such as the Folies Bergère, and neighbourhoods like Montmartre, the works of art convey (the development of) the French capital. Here, past and present converge: the present-day visitor might still recognize one spot, while another has changed beyond recognition.
Jointly organised with the Petit Palais in Paris, The Dutch in Paris 1789 – 1914 is a unique exhibition. More than 130 works by celebrated artists (David, Géricault, Corot, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Van Dongen, Picasso, Mondriaan, Cézanne, and Braque) as well as lesser-known ones (Van Spaendonck, Van Dael, Scheffer, Tassaert, Jongkind, Sisley, Kaemmerer, Boldini, Boudin, Breitner, Signac, Sluijters, Jozef and Isaac Israëls) will be on view. A select range of loans – from diverse French and American museums and private collections, many shown in the Netherlands for the first time – can be admired in the exhibition.
The Dutch in Paris 1789 - 1914 is part of the Van Gogh Museum's Year of France 2017. Other successful exhibitions in this programme were Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh and Prints in Paris 1900. The Mesdag Collection in The Hague will mount The Dutch in Barbizon, a complementary presentation to The Dutch in Paris 1789 - 1914, from 27 October to 7 January 2018.