RKD Netherland Institute for art History
Eduard Karsen (1860-1941) belonged to the Amsterdam School of painters, which also included George Hendrik Breitner, Jan Veth, Willem Witsen and Jacobus van Looy. He had met these three at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam, when he attended classes between 1878 and 1885. The members of this group typically wanted to express personal feelings through their art. Karsen perhaps went furthest in pursuing this aspiration. He chose simple subjects – a view of a town or a village, a farmhouse, a small garden – in which he kept the suggestion of human presence to a minimum. Far from being snapshots, his paintings show dreamlike scenes, in which time plays no part. By giving his paintings such titles as Evening, Spring or Autumn he emphasised the transcendent mood of his subject matter. His compositions look natural and straightforward. In order to achieve what he wanted, Karsen would sometimes leave his sketches to one side for years before working them into a painting – they had first to become memories. The writer Albert Verwey had this to say about Karsen: 'He loved the real world, but first it had to be transformed into a dream'.
Karsen produced a small oeuvre estimated to consist of about 100 paintings. He virtually stopped painting after 1905. Yet, his work was generally appreciated both during and after his lifetime. His style was recognised as modern and original. His distinctive manner impressed friends, art connoisseurs and colleagues alike. The recently acquired material attests to the continued appreciation of Karsen's work and shows the concerted effort that was repeatedly made by others to exhibit and sell his work, and to give him a place in contemporary art.