Hague School

In the mid-nineteenth century the Hague School introduced some important innovations in Dutch painting. Around 1860 a group of painters, including Jozef Israels, the Maris brothers, Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch and Hendrik Willem Mesdag settled in The Hague. The city, set in beautiful surroundings, had a flourishing art scene. In contrast to the Romantic painters from whom they had learned their craft, the painters of the Hague School did not set out to idealise in their landscape paintings, but to depict what they saw in a realistic manner.

The painters of the Hague School mainly painted the landscape of the western Netherlands. Following the example of the French painters of the Barbizon school, who painted outdoors in the forests of Fontainebleau, more and more Dutch artists took to painting ‘en plein air’, helped by the expansion of the railway network and the production of readymade paint in tubes.

Studies produced in the open air provided material for paintings made in the studio during the winter months. There, the artists of the Hague School composed their somewhat sombre landscapes, emphasising light and atmosphere. Vast expanses of sky and light reflected on water are recurring features. Like the painters of the Barbizon school, they used tonal colours, prompting some to dub them ‘the grey school’.

The Kunstmuseum has an extensive collection of Hague School paintings. A special society for the establishment of a museum of modern art in The Hague was set up in 1866, and it was this initiative that eventually led to the founding of the Kunstmuseum. Some Hague School artists were also members of the society. As a result, a large number of top items in the collection were acquired for the museum in the mid-nineteenth century, during the lifetime of the artists.

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