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Jozef Israëls (1824-1911)

Jozef Israëls was a Dutch painter, who is arguably the most respected Dutch artist of the second half of the nineteenth century. He is often called the “Dutch Millet”. Israëls was the leader of the Hague school of peasant genre painting, which flourished in The Netherlands between 1860 and 1900. He began his studies in Amsterdam and from 1845 to 1847 worked in Paris under the academic painters Horace Vernet and Paul Delaroche. Israëls first tried to establish himself as a painter of Romantic portraits and conventional historical pictures but had achieved little success when in 1855 ill health compelled him to leave Amsterdam for the fishing village of Zandvoort. That change of scenery revolutionized his art; he turned to realistic and compassionate portrayals of the Dutch peasantry and fisherfolk. In 1871 he moved to The Hague. Besides oils, Israëls worked in watercolors and was an etcher of the first rank. His later works in all media express a tragic sense of life and are generally treated in broad masses of light and shade. His painting style was influenced by Rembrandt’s later works, and, like Rembrandt, Israëls often painted the poor Jews of the Dutch ghettos (e.g., A Son of the Chosen People, 1889). His son Isaac (1865–1934), also a painter, adopted an Impressionist technique and subject matter and had some influence on his father’s later work.

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