Fine Art

George Breitner

Dutch, 1857-1923

The Singel, Amsterdam

1912
Oil on canvas
30 x 39 3/4 inches (76 x 101 cm)
Signed: Breitner

Provenance:

The Bosman Collection
The Gratama Collection
The Vermuelen Collection, The Netherlands
Mr C.A.C.M. Tiebackx, Amsterdam
Then by descent

Exhibited:

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Breitner en zijn tijdgenoten, 1958, no. 48.

George Breitner was born in Rotterdam in 1857; he enrolled in the Art Academy in The Hague in 1876, where he learned the academic style. He was influenced by The Hague School and their interest in French Impressionism. His inspiration primarily came from the city streets and scenes. For a short period in the early 1880s, he spent time and worked with Vincent van Gogh in portraying the poorer sections in The Hague. Breitner moved to Amsterdam in 1886, where went to school at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten. Amsterdam became his home, however he would frequently travel to other local areas to visit and find new inspiration. But he would always come back to Amsterdam, fascinated with its city life.


Some of his other subjects include the kimono girls and portraits. Breitner preferred to use working class models and scenes, for he saw his style as a style of the people. It was in 1889 he started painted girls in kimonos and also he began to use photography as a reference and inspiration for his work. He was known to paint images multiple times from different angles. Throughout his career he combined the dark color pallet of Realism and the airy painting technique of French Impressionism. He tended to blend the two components to create lively but at the same time darker scenes of urbanism. He concentrated on illustrating busy street scenes, the demolition of old buildings and building plots and regular city views. As such, Breitner was one of the most compelling painters and photographers of Amsterdam in his time.


Our painting is seen from the dynamic street behind a row of trees by The Singel, Amsterdam, painted in 1912. The Singel is a canal in Amsterdam which encircled the city in the Middle ages. It served as a moat around the city until 1585, when Amsterdam expanded beyond the Singel. The canal runs from the IJ bay to the Muntplein square, where it meets the Amstel river. It is now the inner-most canal in Amsterdam's semicircular ring of canals.


The left edge of the painting is mysterious as it bleeds into the background, a technique inspired by Breitner’s experience with photography. He also looks to photography to guide the composition of the painting, as it is divided into a grid by the trees and windows streaming through the scene. Breitner uses extremely active brushwork to exude quiet energy in the canvas. He uses a mostly brown color pallet, but then add hints of bright blues, yellows, and greens. These pops of bright color move the eye from left to right as the brighter colors fade into brown while moving across the painting. This piece is excellent example of Breitner’s unique and special style, depicting the relationship between his use of photography and the Impressionistic brushstroke.