RKD undertakes research for the exhibition The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 at the Van Gogh Museum

In the current major exhibition The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914, the Van Gogh Museum is presenting the French capital through the eyes and hearts of eight Dutch artists: Van Spaendonck, Scheffer, Jongkind, Kaemmerer, Breitner, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondrian. With the Van Gogh Museum, The RKD – Netherlands Institute for art History conducted research for this exhibition, resulting in important contributions to the catalogue as well as the development of Mapping Artists, a digital tool that visualises the location of studios and home addresses of artists in Paris.

The exhibition focuses on the inspiration that Dutch artists found in Paris through, for example, their contact with French colleagues and the impact this had on their art. The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 is a collaboration between the RKD, the Van Gogh Museum and Paris Musées / Petit Palais. Included in the display are more than 120 works, among them numerous loans from public as well as private collections around the world.

Crossing borders

Throughout the nineteenth century, Paris, with its creative breeding grounds, exhibitions and art academies, was an irresistible magnet for artists from all corners of the globe. Dutch artists were among those who made for the ‘Art Capital of the world’ with the aim of training, exhibiting and selling their work, and establishing new contacts. In the academies such as the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts (‘the arena for the most talented’), in salons but also private studios, in the streets and cafés, Dutch artists had ample opportunities to mingle with their French colleagues. Energised by this new world called Paris, they created innovative works. Dutch artists such as Jongkind, Breitner, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondrian encountered Monet, Degas, Signac, Pissarro, Cézanne, Braque and Picasso. They spurred each other on and experimented with new styles and techniques.

Dutch inspiration

The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 reveals how this exchange developed and what impact it had on Dutch as well as French art. For the influence went in both directions and Dutch artists also left their mark on the work French painters. For example, Kees van Dongen (1877–1968) – following in the footsteps of his colleague Pablo Picasso a few years earlier – was mesmerised by the nightlife at the Butte Montmartre. It was especially Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel and Piet van der Hem who experimented with Luminism after 1906, inspired by the paintings of Van Dongen. Piet Mondrian (1873–1944) looked for new inspiration in Paris. The work of the Cubist painters, including Picasso and Braque, ‘showed him the way’ to his own completely abstract pictorial language. On their return from Paris, Dutch artists influenced fellow painters at home: George Hendrik Breitner (1857–1923) introduced his friends Isaac Israels and Willem de Zwart to French Impressionism, prompting them to paint ballerinas and nudes, subjects that were relatively new in the Netherlands at the time.


In eight sections, each devoted to a Dutch artist working in Paris, the exhibition also tells the exciting story of the French capital. The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 can be read as a tale of passionate love between France and the Netherlands. Painters take the viewer on a journey to the ever-changing French capital and show us the city through their eyes and hearts. The exhibition reveals beautifully how French artists followed the imagery of their Dutch counterparts when recording the City of Light themselves. Past and present meet; some spots will still be familiar to today’s visitors to the city, while others have changed beyond recognition. The exhibition celebrates the city of Paris and the geniuses it inspired but it also pays tribute to a world that is constantly changing and reinventing itself. As they move through the exhibition, visitors follow the development of nineteenth-century art.


The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue which is the result of close collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum, the RKD and Petit Palais. The catalogue tells the story of the exhilarating artistic exchanges experienced by a number of Dutch artists who visited Paris either briefly or for a long stay. Together these accounts shed new light on the melting-pot of nineteenth-century Paris, which gave rise to a truly international art. The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 is published in Dutch as well as English by THOTH Publishers, 272 pp., € 29.90. A French co-edition is published by Paris Musées.

Mapping Artists

The RKD has developed a digital application which shows the locations of artists’ studios as well as their home addresses on a map of Paris. Through (using the search function ‘Nederlanders in Parijs’) you can trace the steps of Dutch artists who visited the city between 1789 and 1914. Using this application an innovative animation has been created showing you where Dutch artists lived and worked. The animation forms part of the exhibition but can also be viewed through the RKD Explore databases.

The Dutch in Barbizon – The Mesdag Collection

The Dutch in Paris 1789-1914 is part of the 2017 celebration of French culture at the Van Gogh museum. From 27 October 2017 to 7 January 2018 the Mesdag Collection in The Hague will be showing the exhibition The Dutch in Barbizon. Maris, Mauve, Weissenbruch, which complements the show at the Van Gogh Museum. The programme also includes the successful exhibitions Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh and Prints in Paris 1900.

The RKD’s contribution to the research for the exhibition has been made possible with a grant from the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek. The development of the visualisation tool Mapping Artists by the RKD was made possible with the generous support of Fonds21 and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.