Hague School paintings are full of the traditional beauties of Holland: grazing cattle, windmills and billowing white clouds. Weissenbruch, Mesdag, Gabriël, Mauve and other Hague School painters went out into the surrounding countryside and immortalised it in pictures that so captured the public imagination that their iconic images still determine the way we think of the Netherlands today. Beautiful Holland is a major exhibition, featuring over a hundred superb paintings and examining the significance of the Dutch landscape and the changes that have occurred in it.
In the late nineteenth century, untamed natural landscapes in the Netherlands were being swept away in favour of productive farmland and industrial development. Moreover, radical changes were occurring in the already agricultural landscape of Holland. Even so, Hague School depictions of those landscapes of the past still dictate how people here and around the world think of the Netherlands today. The artists turned the contemporary landscape of their region into a universal landscape of the heart. In the forthcoming exhibition, over a hundred paintings, the earliest ever (late nineteenth-century) wildlife photographs, archive materials and an extensive programme of visits to nature conservation areas will offer the public a picture of the Dutch landscape both as it used to be and as it is today. Some of the masterpieces going on show at the Gemeentemuseum have spent many years in Japan. These works will now be the key focus of Beautiful Holland, surrounded by works from a multitude of other major museums and private collections.
Symbiosis between nature conservation and the arts
The emergence of the Hague School coincided with an increasing appreciation of nature in the Netherlands. At the dawn of the twentieth century, this growing interest would prompt the establishment of a national nature conservation society (the Vereniging Natuurmonumenten) which still flourishes today. This organisation is now partnering the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag on activities surrounding its Hague School exhibition. The result is a unique symbiosis between nature conservation and the arts that will enable the public to visit the very countryside that is so beautifully depicted in the Hague School paintings on view in the exhibition.
This exhibition will change the way people look at the landscape of Holland, especially if they also take advantage of this spring’s programme of associated excursions to landscape areas and nature reserves like Midden-Delfland, Naardermeer or Planken Wambuis. These are being organised by Natuurmonumenten and will include walks, cycle tours and a boat trip. One of the cycle tours – to Midden-Delfland – starts from the Gemeentemuseum itself and is therefore a perfect same-day complement to an exhibition visit.
Jet Bussemaker, the Netherlands Minister of Education, Culture and Science, is keen for the arts sector to establish ties with other major societal organisations. Beautiful Holland – Out and about with the Hague School responds perfectly to this desire. Natuurmonumenten is not the only organization with which the Gemeentemuseum has joined hands. Dordrecht Museum is holding a complementary exhibition about the early period of the Hague School, designed in partnership so that the two shows combine to tell the entire story of the movement, and the two museums are publishing a joint catalogue. The Gemeentemuseum has also obtained the cooperation of Leiden University Print Room and the exhibition is being sponsored by the ASN Bank.