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The Hague School

The Mesdag Collection

In the mid-19th century, inspired by the French Barbizon School, the Hague School introduced a novelty to Dutch painting: these artists, including Jozef Israëls, the Maris brothers, Anton Mauve, Hendrik Willem Mesdag and Jan Weissenbruch, no longer set out to idealize their landscape paintings, but depicted what they saw in a realistic manner. (As a consequence of the typical Dutch weather conditions, the movement is also referred to as the ‘Grey School’.) I myself like Mauve best, but it was Mesdag who became the group’s most famous representative, mainly because of his well-known 1,672-m² panorama of Scheveningen.

The Daubigny Gallery at the Mesdag Collection
The Daubigny Gallery at the Mesdag Collection

In 1887, Hendrik Willem & Sientje Mesdag built a museum right next to their house in The Hague. It was open by appointment on Sunday mornings and Mesdag himself gave guided tours. In order to demonstrate the ties between the Barbizon and Hague schools, paintings from both movements are hanging side by side at the Mesdag Collection, together with the Mesdags’ own work. Among the collection’s highlights are Cliffs at Villerville-sur-Mer and Sunset near Villerville by Charles-François Daubigny, as well as Chalk Cliffs near Yport by Camille Corot, Théophile de Bock’s Thunderstorm, In Groenendaal by Paul Gabriël, Jacob Maris’ Windmill, and Breakers on the North Sea, the painting that won Mesdag a gold medal in the 1870 Paris Salon and gained him international recognition.

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A concept patented in 1787 by Robert Barker, panoramas became wildly popular in the 19th centrury, and in 1881, Mesdag, assisted by his wife Sientje, George Breitner, Théophile de Bock & Bernard Blommers, painted Panorama Mesdag, a vista of the Scheveningen seaside. Measuring 114½ × 14⅗ m, it is not only Mesdag’s greatest work, it’s also the largest painting in the Netherlands, on display within walking distance of the Mesdag Collection. After Vincent van Gogh saw it, he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo: ‘Le seul défaut de ce tableau est de ne pas avoir de défaut’.


I love Anton Mauve’s work, especially his sheep paintings, such as On the Heath near Laren and Shepherdess with a Flock of Sheep, both on display at the Rijksmuseum. My other favourite Mauves at the Rijks are The Vegetable Garden and Morning Ride along the Beach. His finest work at the Mesdag Collection is Donkey Stand on the Beach at Scheveningen.


Museum Mesdag has a lovely garden, which provides a perfect place for a picnic.