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George Hendrik Breitner | Impressionist painter

From: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) was born in Rotterdam. In 1876, he enrolled at the academy in The Hague.
Later, he worked at Willem Maris's studio.
In this early period he was especially influenced by the painters of the Hague School. Breitner preferred working-class models: labourers, servant girls and people from lower-class neighbourhoods.
He saw himself as 'le peintre du peuple', the people's painter. In 1886, he moved to Amsterdam, where he recorded the life of the city in sketches, paintings and photos.

Sometimes he made several pictures of the same subject, from different angles or in different weather conditions.
Photos might serve as an example for a painting, as for his portraits of girls in kimonos, or as general reference material.

Breitner often collaborated with Isaac Israels; both painters are referred to as Amsterdam Impressionists.
Conservative critics called Breitner's style 'unfinished'. | © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

From: Wikipedia
George Hendrik Breitner was a Dutch painter and photographer. An important figure in Amsterdam Impressionism, he is noted especially for his paintings of street scenes and 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.

Breitner and van Gogh

In the early months of 1882, Breitner came into contact with Vincent 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 was hospitalised in April. Van Gogh visited him in hospital, but Breitner did not return the visits when van Gogh himself was hospitalised two months later, and they did not meet again until the following July when van Gogh was on the verge of leaving The Hague and Breitner spending more time in Rotterdam than the Hague.
At that time van Gogh gave Theo a less than flattering account of Breitner's paintings as resembling mouldy wallpaper, although he did say he thought he would be all right in the end.

For his part, there is no evidence that Breitner saw anything notable in van Gogh's work. He later reminisced that sketching with van Gogh was problematic because, whereas Breitner sketched discreetly in a notebook, van Gogh came laden with apparatus and attracted hostile attention.
Two years after van Gogh's death, Breitner wrote that he did not like van Gogh's paintings: "I can’t help it, but to me it seems like art for Eskimos, I cannot enjoy it. I honestly find it coarse and distasteful, without any distinction, and what’s more, he has stolen it all from Millet and others".


Breitner introduced a social realism to the Netherlands that created shock waves similar to that of Courbet 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 1877-1883, 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).

George Hendrik Breitner (Rotterdam, 12 settembre 1857 – Amsterdam, 5 giugno 1923) è stato un pittore Olandese.
Allievo di August Allebé, George Breitner fu un pittore di dichiarata impostazione impressionista. Le sue opere, a detta di alcuni storici, avrebbero influenzato sia la pittura di Vincent van Gogh che quella di Piet Mondrian. Egli fu un punto di riferimento per la scuola olandese fintanto che l'impressionismo rappresentò l'arte contemporanea negli anni di fine secolo.

I suoi studi iniziarono all'Art Academy dell'Aia, dove rimase dal 1876-1880 e dove il suo precoce e straordinario talento fu spesso premiato. Dopo questa esperienza iniziale, però, Breitner abbandonò quanto aveva appreso all'Accademia e abbracciò totalmente la scuola impressionista.
Dal 1880-1881 lavorò al celebre "Panorama Mesday" assieme a Hendrik Mesday. Nel 1882 Theo Van Gogh gli presentò il fratello Vincent e Breitner s'impegnò spesso al suo fianco, aiutandolo, lavorando e discutendo con lui.
In quegli anni i soggetti preferiti di Breitner furono gli operai, le servette e, in generale, la gente dei ceti più bassi. Questo interesse per il popolo, che era del resto comune ad un considerevole numero di altri pittori, traeva origine da quella "coscienza sociale", che veniva diffusa dalle opere di molti scrittori francesi, come Émile Zola, e che generava in pittura, il cosiddetto "realismo sociale".

Dipinse anche molte figure di donne, ma, al pari di Rembrandt, fu severamente criticato per il modo troppo realistico con cui rappresentava il corpo femminile, cosa che appariva in contrasto con il comune ideale di bellezza.
Nel 1886 Breitner entrò a far parte della Rijksacademie di Amsterdam.
In seguito, con l'avvento del nuovo secolo, il movimento impressionista iniziò a decadere e le nuove generazioni seguirono altre e più nuove correnti.
Dapprima il puntinismo e il simbolismo, in seguito il cubismo, il futurismo e l'espressionismo: il ruolo di Breitner come pittore contemporaneo era terminato.
Ebbe due allievi di rilievo: Kees Maks (1876-1967) e Marie Henrie Mackenzie (1878-1961).
Breitner si spense nel 1923 ad Amsterdam: aveva 66 anni.
Due delle sue tele sono esposte a Parigi al Musée d'Orsay.