George Hendrik Breitner

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self-portrait of George Hendrik Breitner, 1880's, in black chalk on paper; current location: Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam
Breitner, 1882: 'Distribution of Soup', watercolor on paper; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam - quote of Breitner, 1882: 'I will paint the people in the street and in the houses, the streets.. I will attempt to be 'le peintre du peuple' (the painter of the people)' // quote of Van Gogh, 1882: 'At the moment I quite often go to draw with Breitner [in the streets of The Hague].. ..we often draw types together in the soup kitchen or the waiting room &c'
Breitner, c. 1884: 'Children in the Dunes / Kinderen in het Duin', oil-painting on board; current location Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands
Breitner, c. 1890: 'An Evening on the Dam in Amsterdam' (in winter), oil-painting on canvas; current location: Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp
Breitner, 1892: 'View on the Oosterpark' oil-painting on canvas; location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Breitner, 1894: 'Girl in white kimono / Meisje in witte kimono' (probably his regular model, Geesje Kwak), oil-painting on canvas; current location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Breitner, c. 1895: 'Dam Square in Amsterdam', pencil and brush, white gouache on paper; current location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Breitner, c. 1901: 'Winter in Amsterdam', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Breitner, 1903 or later: 'Building Site on the De Clercqstraat', Amsterdam (in the background a row of houses on the canal-street Bilderdijkgracht), oil-painting on canvas; current location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

George Hendrik Breitner (12 September 1857 – 5 June 1923) was a Dutch painter and photographer. An important figure in Amsterdam Impressionism, he is noted especially for his paintings of street scenes and harbours around 1890 – 1920. He painted frequently en plein air, and became interested in photography as a means of documenting street life and atmospheric effects; he loved the Dutch rainy or snowy weather.

Quotes by G. H. Breitner[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • What wonderful weather it has been today, I had not been outside for so long and so I spent the entire day out of doors. Wonderful. Nature is always fresh and new and to stay fresh she is the only thing giving all that is necessary. Everything is rich. I mean, not only the outdoors, landscape or something like that, but simply everything, yes everything except your workplace, and not even excluding that. 'Le spectacle est dans le spectateur' (the spectacle is in the spectator). (The Hague, 1881)
  • original text in Dutch: Wat heerlijk wêer is ’t vandaag geweest, ik was in geen tijd buiten geweest, en ben vandaag de heelen dag buiten gebleven. Maar heerlijk. Frisch en nieuw is de natuur altijd, en om frisch te blijven is zij de eenige die ’t noodige geeft, Alles even rijk. ik bedoel niet bepaald het buiten, landschap of zoo iets, maar eenvoudig, ja alles, behalve je werkplaats, en ook die niet uitgezonderd. 'Le spectacle est dans le spectateur.' (Den Haag, 1881)
    • w:George Hendrik Breitner, in his letter to A.P.van Stolk, 12 August 1881, (location: The RKD in The Hague); as quoted by Helewise Berger in Van Gogh and Breitner in The Hague, her Master essay in Dutch - Modern Art Faculty of Philosophy University Utrecht, February 2008]], (transl. A. Porcelijn) p. 4.
    • Note: this quote of Breitner is from the years he spent in The Hague; a year later he would regularly sketch in the streets of this city, together with Vincent van Gogh.
  • If you want to help me, and I know you do, believe in me. And do not help to criticize or break me, as some people do gladly, who are indifferent or hostile [towards me].. ..You must have faith in me. Believe me. And if you want to believe someone about me, believe an artist, someone like Mesdag or Blommers or Maris [one of Breitner's teachers, c. 1880] . But not Kuyper and the likes of him... ...and hear what they say and put more value on the talk 'finish better' and 'he is stubborn' - from people who, let's be honest, actually know nothing about art. (The Hague, 1881)
  • original text in Dutch: Indien U mij wilt helpen en dat weet ik, geloof dan in mij. en helpt niet mee om mij af te breken, dat lieden die of onverschillig zijn of vijandig zoo gaarne doen... ...Gij moet vertrouwen in mij hebben. mij geloven. En als Ge iemand gelooven wilt over mij. geloof dan een schilder iemand als Mesdag of Blommers of Maris. maar geen de Kuyper en consorten... ...en hoor wat ze zeggen en hecht dan nog eenige waarde aan de praatjes van: 'meer af' en: 'hij is koppig' - van lui die goed beschouwd er toch eigentlijk niets van weten. (Den Haag, 1881)
    • w:George Hendrik Breitner, in his letter aan A.P. van Stolk nr. 24, 11 October 1881, (location: The RKD in The Hague); as quoted by Helewise Berger in Van Gogh and Breitner in The Hague, her Master essay in Dutch - Modern Art Faculty of Philosophy University Utrecht, February 2008]], (transl. A. Porcelijn) p. 36.
    • Note: This quote is from Breitner's period in The Hague, after his Maecenas A.P.van Stolk withdrew his financial support. In his defense, Breitner cites a number of painters from the Hague School he is in contact with and who have already built up a certain reputation.
  • Myself, I will paint the people in the street and in the houses, the streets and houses they have built, life in general. I will attempt to be 'le peintre du peuple' (the painter of the people), or rather I am that already, because I want to be. I want to paint history, and I will, but history in its' broadest sense. A market, a wharf, a river, a group of soldiers under a burning sun or in the snow.. (The Hague, 1882)
  • original text in Dutch: Ik zelf, ik zal de menschen schilderen op de straat en in de huizen, de straten en de huizen die ze gebouwd hebben, 't leven vooral. Le peintre du peuple zal ik trachten te worden, of liever ben ik al, omdat ik 't wil. Geschiedenis wil ik schilderen en zal ik ook, maar de geschiedenis in haren uitgebreidsten zin. Een markt, een kaai, een rivier, een bende soldaten onder een gloeiende zon of in de sneeuw... (Den Haag, 1882)
    • w:George Hendrik Breitner, in his letter aan A.P. van Stolk nr. 24, 28 maart 1882, (location: The RKD in The Hague); as quoted by Helewise Berger in Van Gogh and Breitner in The Hague, her Master essay in Dutch - Modern Art Faculty of Philosophy University Utrecht, February 2008]], (transl. A. Porcelijn) p. 6.
    • Note: this quote is from Breitner's period in The Hague and suggests that Breitner based his ideas for subjects and methods on French Realism in literature, similar to Vincent van Gogh; they read the same novels; lending to each other. Together they went also through the poorer neighbourhoods of The Hague in those years, sketching and drawing.
  • After viewing a few paintings and a drawing that I had brought in the day before yesterday, Mr. v.d. Kellen [Dutch art dealer] assured me that there was absolutely no chance of placing anything of mine here, unless it was bought under pressure of a pleasant future, and I think he is right because he showed me various paintings, and specifically those that were closest to my understanding of art were the most difficult to place.. ..I was astounded and furious about such far-reaching stupidity and the pedantry of the man [another art dealer, Herman Deichmann]. All the paintings present were beneath criticism, they were just the usual German Academic stuff. (The Hague, 1882)
  • original text in Dutch: De heer v.d. Kellen heeft mij na het zien van eenige schilderijtjes en een tekening, die ik eergisteren mee gebracht had, de verzekering gegeven dat er niet de minste kans bestaat hier iets van mij te plaatsen, tenzij dat het gekocht wordt door pressie een prettig vooruitzicht en ik geloof dat hij gelijk heeft want hij liet mij verschillende schilderijen zien en juist degenen die naar mijn begrippen de kunst 't meest nabij kwamen waren 't moeilijkst te plaatsen... ...Ben verbaasd en woedend geweest over de verregaande stupiditeit en pedanterie van dien heer (kunsthandelaar, Herman Deichmann). Alle schilderijen daar aanwezig waren beneden kritiek, waren enfin 't gewone duitsche Academietuig. (Den Haag, 1882)
    • w:George Hendrik Breitner, in his letter aan A.P. van Stolk, undated c. September 1882, (location: The RKD in The Hague); as quoted by Helewise Berger in Van Gogh and Breitner in The Hague, her Master essay in Dutch - Modern Art Faculty of Philosophy University Utrecht, February 2008]], (transl. A. Porcelijn) p. 69.
    • Note: Following the advice of his Maecenas Mr.van Stolk, Breitner had shown his work to two Dutch art dealers; In this quote he later gives his report and his vision on this.

Quotes about G.H. Breitner[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • At the moment I quite often go to draw with Breitner [1]letter 204, from the original letter; location and translation: Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam], a young painter who's acquainted with Rochussen as I am with Mauve. He draws very skilfully and very differently from me, and we often draw types together in the soup kitchen or the waiting room &c. He sometimes comes to my studio to look at woodcuts, and I go to see the ones he has as well. [2]letter 204, from the original letter; location and translation: Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam]
  • original text in Dutch: Tegenwoordig ga ik nogal eens tekenen met Breitner, een jong schilder die in kennis is met Rochussen, zoals ik met Mauve. Hij tekent heel handig en heel anders weer dan ik, en wij maken dikwijls samen typen in de volksgaarkeuken of de wachtkamer &c. Hij komt nogal eens bij mij op 't atelier om houtgravures te zien & ik bij hem ook.
    • Vincent van Gogh, in his letter to his brother Theo, The Hague, Monday, 13 February 1882,
  • Breitner, whom I didn't in the least expect because he had apparently broken off contact completely some time ago, turned up yesterday. That pleased me because in the past — when I was first here [in The Hague] — he was very pleasant to go walking with. I mean to go out together not in the country but in the city itself, to look for figures and nice scenes. Here in The Hague there isn't a single person I've ever done that with in the city itself; most think the city ugly and pass by all of it. And yet it's really beautiful in the city sometimes, don't you agree?
    • Vincent van Gogh in a letter to Theo, from the Hague, c. 11 July 1883 - original manuscript at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. nos. b322 a-c V/1962 [3]
    • Breiter and Vincent frequently sketched together people in the streets of the city The Hague during 1882. They called themselves 'painter of the people / peintre du peuple' inspired by French literature, they both read
  • I hope that in the meantime you will say farewell to the untidy impressionistic manner, based on nothing and.. ..pursue that which is within your reach to develop the talent you have, with seriousness and hard work. (The Hague, 1883)
  • original text in Dutch: Ik hoop, dat gij in dien tussentijd die slordige impressionisten manier, die op niets berust zult vaarwel zeggen en... ...hetgeen in Uw bereik ligt, met ernst en volharding het goede talent zult ontwikkelen dat gij hebt. (Den Haag, 1883)
    • A.P. van Stolk, in his letter to G. H. Breitner, 12 October 1883, (location: The RKD in The Hague); as quoted Art Policy and Maecenas, Floor Claessen - Master essay, Radboud University Nijmegen Faculty of Literature, June 2015, p.37, (transl. A. Porcelijn) p. 37.
    • Note: Breitner's Maecenas Mr.van Stolk wants him to drop his loose, sketchy style of painting and to finish his paintings properly with all the details.
  • Mr.Breitner's ridiculous landscape blotching. I am not sure if Mr.Breitner's piece is not a city or village picture, or indeed not a group of people. A mass of blue at the top does make me feel that it is outside in the open air. Have the gentlemen perhaps been sent by some Academy or other to make Impressionism ridiculous? (1884)
  • original text in Dutch: Onzinnig is de landschapskladderij van de Heer Breitner. Ik ben niet zeker of het stuk van de Heer Breitner geen stads-of-dorpsgezicht is, of geen samengroepering van menschen. Een massa blauw boven doet mij in allen geval aan buitenlucht denken. Zijn die Heeren misschien door de een of andere Academie uitgezonden om het impressionisme belachelijk te maken? (1884)
    • Art-review by Alberdingk Thijm about Taco Mesdag's collection, in periodic 'Het Groene Weekblad', 1884; as quoted in G.H.Breitner, 1857-1923, Adriaan Venema, Publisher: Wereldvenster, Bussum 1981, p. 119
    • Note: The art-press in the period 1880-90 is also often critical of the sketch-like manner of painting by Breitner and similar sketchy artists.

External links[edit]

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