Woman by the Sea - Israëls, Josef

Fine Art

Israëls, Josef




Woman by the Sea

Oil on board
10 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches (26.7 x 26.9 cm)
Framed: 15 5/8 x 15 3/4 inches (39.7 x 40 cm)
Signed: Josef Israëls


Private collection, USA, since 1970


Josef Israëls was born in 1824 in Groningen. He was the third of seven children of Hartog Abraham Israels, a stockbroker, and Mathilde Salamon Polack, the daughter of a chemist. His family had tried to encourage him to become a rabbi, but instead Israëls took drawing classes, which was considered to be part of a good education. At the age of 13, he painted a portrait of a Jewish pipe-bowl merchant whom he often used as a model in subsequent images. Israels also attended private drawing and painting lessons from the two most highly respected teachers of the Minerva Academy in Groningen: C. Buys and J.J.G. van Wicheren. In addition, he often visited one of his father’s clients, Klaas Mesdag, who later became his patron.

Israëls was a leading member of the Hague school and indeed considered by many to be the leader of the Dutch nineteenth century school. He studied at the Beaux-Arts in Paris under the history painter Paul Delaroche and, after his return to Holland in 1847, took up costume history paintings. In 1851, Israëls truly began his career as a painter: that year he completed Adagio, a highly praised and large, ambitious canvas (location today unknown). He traveled to Zandvoort in 1855 and began to paint realist genre scenes of the fisherman who lived there. Israels mainly depicted people in common, everyday situations, such as Children on the Beach, 1875 or Women Mending the Nets, 1866. It is these paintings that were most influential to Vincent van Gogh as well as to the Glasgow School.

His work was held in high esteem abroad. Israëls participated at the Brussels and Paris Salons and his work was shown at prestigious exhibitions in London and New York. When he moved to The Hague in the 1870s, Israels’ watercolors played an influential role in establishing the medium as fully-fledged in the Netherlands, enlarging the market of art buyers to include the middle classes.

Israëls here shows his characteristic interest in painting a scene from everyday life. A young woman is standing on a grassy beach dune with a woven basket on her back. She is looking towards the sea, perhaps waiting for the sailboat to come to shore. With his vigorous and loose brushstrokes and a cool palette of blues, greens and browns, the artist depicts a scene of charm and serene reflection. Breaking waves on the shore at the left give way to calmer waters toward the horizon.

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