Amsterdam Impressionism

Two great books about the key figures of Amsterdam Impressionism

Hallelujah for second hand bookstores. A good second hand bookstore can be recognized – in my opinion – by a great variety of available categories, from biology to… art. Last summer, I visited several second hand bookstores in Enschede and Deventer, and found some beautiful art books. In this post, I’d like to recommend two books about the key figures of Amsterdam Impressionism.

Breitner and Israels

Amsterdam impressionismThe first book I found was ‘George Hendrik Breitner‘ (THOTH Publishers, Bussum). It tells the story about the life and work of the Amsterdam based painter George Hendrik Breitner (1857 – 1923). It does so by not only showing the paintings and drawings of Breitner, but also his photographs. The latter, is one of the main reasons why I bought the book. The photographer Breitner is almost as good as the painter. In his photographs, you can see the same talent for composition and atmosphere as in his paintings. Breitner loved the images of everyday life in Amsterdam, something which is clearly illustrated by the book. This books contains some of the most astonishing treasures of one of the greatest painters the Netherlands have ever seen. It’s a real time capsule.

Where the paintings of Breitner can be gloomy in a wonderful way, the paintings of Isaac Israels (1865 – 1934) are a lot lighter. This contrast can easily be seen when flipping through the pages of ‘Isaac Israels – Hollands impressionist’ (Scriptum Art). Where Breitner submerged himself in the melancholic and sometimes desolate nightlife of a long gone Amsterdam, Israels preferred a sunny day at the beach, painting girls riding on the back of a donkey.

My favorite anecdote in the book, is when Israels discribes how he strolled through Amsterdam, and bumped into a painting of Breitner, which he saw in the window of an art dealer. The young Israels wonders how he can ever become as great as Breitner, the artist he admires the most…


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