ARTIST: GEORGE HENDRIK BREITNER (ROTTERDAM 1857 AMSTERDAM 1923)
TECHNIQUE: WATERCOLOR PAINTING
THEME: “ THE LIGHTHOUSE” or "MARINE"
PERIOD: PAINTED CIRCA 1885
SIGNED WITH INITIALS “GHB” (LOWER RIGHT)
MESURES (WOODEN FRAME INCLUDED): 30 CM. x 26 CM. //// 11,81 Inch. x 10,23 Inch.
MESURES (ONLY PAINTING):16,5 CM x 12 CM. //// 6,49 Inch. x 4,72 Inch.
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George Hendrik Breitner (1857 – 1923) was a Dutch painter and photographer. An important figure in Amsterdam Impressionism he is noted especially for his paintings of street scenes an d harbours in a realistic style. He painted en plein air, and became interested in photography as a means of documenting street life and atmospheric effects – rainy weather in particular – as reference materials for his paintings.
In the early months of 1882, Breitner came into contact with Vicent van Gogh. Van Gogh appears to have been introduced to him by his brother Theo, and the pair sketched together in the working-class districts of The Hague. Breitner was motivated to do so because he regarded himself as a painter of the common folk. Van Gogh, initially at any rate, was more intent on recruiting models. It is likely that Breitner introduced van Gogh to the novels of Émile Zola and the cause of social realism.
Breitner saw himself as "le peintre du peuple", the people's painter. He was the painter of city views par excellence: wooden foundation piles by the harbour, demolition work and construction sites in the old centre, horse trams on the Dam, or canals in the rain. With his nervous brush strokes, he captured the dynamic street life. By 1890, cameras were affordable, and Breitner had a much better instrument to satisfy his ambitions. He became very interested in capturing movement and illumination in the city, and became a master in doing this. It is not impossible that Breitner's preference for cloudy weather conditions and a greyish and brownish palette resulted from certain limitations of the photographic material.
Breitner also painted female nudes, but just like Rembrandt he was criticized because his nudes were painted too realistically and did not resemble the common ideal of beauty. In his own time Breitner's paintings were admired by artists and art lovers, but often despised by the Dutch art critics for their raw and realistic nature.
Breitner introduced a social realism to the Netherlands that created shock waves similar to that of Coubet and Manet´s in France. In his early years, the corn merchant A.P. van Stolk, who was interested in art, played an influential role. He financially supported the young painter from 1877 to 1883, but his conservative taste clashed with Breitner's particular style.
The discovery in 1996 of a large collection of photographic prints and negatives made clear that Breitner was also a talented photographer of street life in the city. Sometimes he made various pictures of the same subject, from different perspectives or in different weather conditions. Photos sometimes formed the immediate example for a particular painting, for instance the girls in kimono. On other occasions, Breitner used photography for general reference, to capture an atmosphere, a light effect or the weather in the city at a particular moment.
Breitner is remembered in a Dutch figure of speech: when the streets are grey and rainy, people of Amsterdam whisper grimly "Echt Breitnerweer" (Typical Breitnerweather).
By the turn of the century Breitner was a famous painter in the Netherlands, as demonstrated by a highly successful retrospective exhibition at Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam (1901). Breitner travelled frequently in the last decades of his life, visiting Paris, London, and Berlin, among other cities, and continued to take photographs. In 1909 he went to the United States as a member of the jury for the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
Girl in a Red Kimono realized €582,450 at a Christie´s Amsterdam sale in October 2003. The purchaser was Robert Noortman. The model for the painting was Geesje Kwak , the subject of a series of seven paintings and studies by Breitner of a girl dressed in a red or white kimono lying on a bed or standing before a mirror. The painting is considered a high point of Dutch Japonisme. In April 2005, Rokin with the Nieuwezijdskapel, Amsterdam realized €415,200 at Christie's, Amsterdam.
Gezicht op Keizersgracht hoek Reguliersgrach (An Elegant Lady Strolling Along a Canal in Amsterdam) realized €760,250 at an October 2007 Christie's Amsterdam sale. The scene is a noted beauty spot in Amsterdam and the palette rather brighter than Breitner's norm, although still muted by comparison with his French counterparts.