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Gemeentemuseum exhibits the finest seascapes produced at Scheveningen
Isaac Israels (1865-1934), Donkey Riding, circa 1898-1902, Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Bequest of Mr and Mrs G.L.F. Philips-van der Willigen, 1942.

THE HAGUE.- The beach at Scheveningen is world-famous. Artists like Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Anton Mauve and the Maris brothers – attracted by the life of the fishing folk, the emerging bathing culture, but above all the magnificent interplay of light, sky and water – used it as a subject in their drawings and paintings. This summer, the Gemeentemuseum is showing the finest seascapes produced at Scheveningen by the painters of the Hague School.

Around 1870 a group of artists formed in The Hague, and the city became the centre of Dutch painting. They took to the outdoors to paint the landscape of the Netherlands. Alongside the woods around the Veluwe heathlands and the polders in the region now known as the ‘Green Heart’ in the west of the country, the North Sea coast also features heavily in the work of these painters. Scenes from the lives of poor fishing folk were a particular favourite of theirs, but now and again their work – particularly their drawings and sketchbooks – also show the other side of the fishing village of Scheveningen, which at the time was becoming a playground for the wealthy.

Disappearing world
Jacob Maris (1837-1899) painted the fishermen hard at work, while his brother Willem (1844-1910) painted the donkeys that gave children rides on the beach. Anton Mauve (1838-1888) showed the fishing boats being pulled up onto the beach by horses, as well as elegantly dressed visitors to the resort. Other artists specialised in the magnificent natural scenery of the coast, depicting the constantly changing sea and the richly varied skies in all kinds of weather conditions. Despite the subject matter, the painters of the Hague School used silver-grey for their beach scenes and seascapes. It is the colour of the light over the North Sea, as it is carried across the water to the land.

The paintings and drawings in the exhibition explore many facets of a disappearing world. Beach Life – The Hague School and Scheveningen takes us on a journey through this fishing village on the eve of momentous change. In 1904, Scheveningen opened a harbour where boats could dock. From that point on, the scenes of large fishing boats on the beach became a thing of the past. The town thus lost one of its important attractions and the two worlds – the hardworking fishing folk and the visitors strolling along the promenade – diverged further and further.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, which was co-founded by the painters of the Hague School, has an extensive collection of work by these Dutch nineteenth-century masters. Many of the most important works were acquired in the nineteenth century, while the artists were still living. Alongside over seventy paintings, drawings, photographs and archive material, the exhibition also features a unique group of sketchbooks that belonged to Anton Mauve. These books have rarely been displayed because of their fragility, and they are being partly presented in digital form in the exhibition. The drawings give a lively impression of the fishing village in days gone by.

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