George Hendrik Breitner

2 09 2012

George Hendrik Breitner.

Breitner saw himself as ‘le peintre du peuple’, the people’s painter. He was the painter of city views par excellence: wooden foundation piles by the harbour, demolition work and construction sites in the old centre, horse trams on the Dam, or canals in the rain. With his nervous brush strokes, he captured the dynamic street life. By 1890, cameras were affordable, and Breitner had a much better instrument to satisfy his ambitions. He became very interested in capturing movement and illumination in the city, and became a master in doing this. It is not impossible that Breitner’s preference for cloudy weather conditions and a greyish and brownish palette resulted from certain limitations of the photographic material.

Breitner also painted female nudes, but just like Rembrandt he was criticized because his nudes were painted too realistically and did not resemble the common ideal of beauty. In his own time Breitner’s paintings were admired by artists and art lovers, but often despised by the Dutch art critics for their raw and realistic nature.

Breitner was a well known painter and photographer. But he is now mostly known for his relationship with Van Gogh.  They sketched and painted together but its not my impression that they thought much of each other. After Van Gogh’s death Breitner said of Van Gogh’s work, “‘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.”

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2 responses

3 09 2012

I’d never heard of him. Thanks for this. I quite like some of his work.

3 09 2012
David Halliday

You’re welcome. Just discovered him myself.

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