WATCH AND LISTEN

Besides the impressive Panorama of Scheveningen, the museum contains almost one hundred paintings by marine painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag and his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten. This collection offers the world’s most varied and complete insight into their art.

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Portrait of Hendrik Willem Mesdag, 1906, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten (1834-1909), Oil on canvas

Sientje Mesdag-van Houten painted this portrait of her husband in 1906, a festive year. Hendrik Willem reached the age of 75 and the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Hendrik Willem is wearing the Medal of Honour for the Arts and Sciences of the Order of the House of Orange-Nassau, which he had received on 20 February that year. Sientje painted the face in quite delicate brushstrokes, while the hair and beard are rendered far more coarsely.

Turbulent Breakers, 1889, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

Turbulent Breakers is a perfect example of the type of painting with which Hendrik Willem became renowned internationally: large-scale turbulent waves. The artist depicts the sea as a powerful force of nature over which people have no control. The two small ships in the background only serve to emphasize the vastness of the composition, while the broad strokes lengthwise and crosswise suggest movements of the clouds.

Portrait of Sientje Mesdag-van Houten with a painter’s palette, ca.1900, Marinus van der Maarel (1857-1921), Oil on canvas

In the 19th century it was very unusual for women to take up painting as a profession. Family friend and artist Jozef Israëls therefore called Sientje Mesdag-van Houten ‘an example for feminism’. From 1872 onwards she regularly exhibited at home and abroad. She was praised for her use of colour and her realistic depiction of nature. In this painting Marinus van der Maarel presents Sientje as an artist, holding her palette in one hand.

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Chrysanthemums in a Vase, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten (1834-1909), Oil on canvas

the early 1880s onwards Sientje devoted herself to painting flower still lifes. She used lighter colours, as we can see here; the coloured flowers stand out against the dark background. The vase Sientje depicts in this painting was probably part of her own china collection.

Still Life with Onions, 1881, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten (1834-1909), Oil on panel

Seen through a painter’s eye even these two ordinary onions become objects worthy of being depicted. Sientje painted the different structures with great precision: while the onions peels glow, the ends of the plants remind us of tough rope. Because of the simplicity of the dark foreground and the brown background, the onions are the centre of our attention.

On the Fringe of the Dunes, ca.1880, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten (1834-1909), Oil on canvas

Sientje had a studio in the dunes of Scheveningen. With small canvases of this kind, a painter’s box and a collapsible easel, she was well equipped for working in the open air. As was customary among the Hague School painters, Sientje Mesdag laid in her painting using only a few earth hues, with tones merging into one another and a minimum of contrast. Details are of secondary importance; the painting is an impression of the natural scenery

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The Village of Scheveningen, 1873, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

Hendrik Willem produced several versions of the picturesque village of Scheveningen in the 1870s. This one shows the Keizerstraat area. The artist rented a room on this street with a view of the sea, first in Villa Elba, and later in Hotel Rauch. For this colourful scene with paving stones, houses and people bustling, the he turned his back to his beloved sea. We can be sure it was Monday, since the washing is hanging out to dry!

After the Storm of 1894, 1896, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

In the night of 22-23 December 1894, a powerful storm tide transformed the beach into a scene of devastation. Much of the fishing fleet was destroyed. On December 24th 1894
Hendrik Willem inspected the chaos, but it took two years before he considered this painting finished. After this storm, a harbour was built in Scheveningen. For the artist, the advent of the harbour meant the demise of his picturesque subject: the fishermen with their bomschuiten.

Fishermen’s Wives and Boats on the Beach, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

In the nineteenth century, the return of the fishing fleet was a popular subject for artists. Hendrik Willem came up with his very own version. The energetic activity of the women as they await the fishermen and their catch is only secondary here; our attention focuses mainly on the impressive play of the cumulus clouds and their reflection on the surface of the sea. With its horizontal format and rugged brushwork, the artist transformed an everyday scene into a monumental composition.

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Early Morning with a Multitude of Ships, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

At the end of his long career, Mesdag changed the roaring waves for tranquillity. He also omitted narratives, such as fishermen and their catch. Instead, he focused on conveying a certain mood. Here, the actual subject is the silence and play of colours of an early morning. The waves are calm and the vessels are anchored. The awakening morning light spreads his golden glow.

Moon in the Evening Sky, 1897-1899, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

Hendrik Willem was fascinated by moonlit scenes and painted a great many of them. This particular painting shows the moon reflected in the water, thus leading the eye from a position close to the seashore to the distant horizon. From there, the viewer’s gaze is led to the moon and the dark cumulus clouds, and their reflections on the shadowy fishing boats or bomschuiten.

Sunset Glow, 1911, Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), Oil on canvas

Hendrik Willem started working in a more colourful style after 1885. He played with the ways in which colours enhance and weaken each other. In this painting, the artist worked primarily in greyish orange, alternating it with pink, green, brown, and a little yellow. He painted over the section along the lower edge in green, contrasting this colour with the orange and grey above. This device shows that colours constantly appear different, either lighter or darker, depending on the adjacent colours.