Lesson 24: The Hague School

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


I don’t paint cows, but light effects.”                
         Willem Maris, painter of The Hague School

In the Netherlands, painters were trained in the tradition of the 17th-century masters. These were the examples that the 19th-century painters had to follow. Innovative and novel directions in the art world were not appreciated. After all, they had already reached the pinnacle of painting, or at least that’s what they were taught at the art academies. Although, a touch of romanticism was allowed. On canvas, they had to depict an ideal world, both in the technique they used and in the subjects and depictions, such as landscapes and portraits. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Change in art is ultimately the only constant, as can be clearly seen in the many chapters of our overview of art history, just as it applies to the society in which we live. This was – and remains – true for the Netherlands as well. Painters like Jozef Israëls, Willem Roelofs, Anton Mauve, and the brothers Jacob and Willem Maris became acquainted with Realism and decided to visit the Barbizon School.

Kippetjes voeren, uit 1866, van de kunstschilder Jacob Maris van de Haagsche School.
Image: “Feeding Chickens,” from 1866, by the painter Jacob Maris. He was a painter of The Hague School. The painting shows a peasant girl feeding chickens in the garden, her skirt pulled up. Behind her, in the background, there’s a small fence and some sunflowers, with a farmhouse further away. A sandy path leads to the left towards sandy grounds with the light of a setting sun in the distance. This path to the horizon creates perspective in the composition.
Location: The oil painting “Feeding Chickens” by Jacob Maris is part of the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. They received this artwork as a donation from Mr. and Mrs. Drucker-Fraser from the Swiss city of Montreux.

They did this at the urging of the painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915) who collected paintings of the painters from the Barbizon School in the Netherlands. Mesdag primarily painted on the beach of the fishing village Scheveningen, but he became famous for his seascapes and the “Panorama Mesdag” he painted (see further on this webpage).

De kalme zee, uit 1915 van de kunstschilder Hendrik Willem MesdagImage: “Calm Sea,” from 1915, by the painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag. Over two-thirds of the painting is dominated by the unique light of the Dutch sky.
Location: This painting by Hendrik Willem Mesdag is in private ownership.

They were impressed and inspired by the way the members of the Barbizon School worked: simply outdoors, en-plein-air. Back in the Netherlands, they also ventured out with their easels to immortalize the diligent fishermen, farmers, and other hardworking people on their canvases, often in gray and brown tones. They captured this transient existence of fishermen and farmers for posterity.

De regenboog, uit 1875 van Willem Roelofs (Haagse School). Op het schilderij schijnt de zon door de donkere luchten op de weilanden. Een fraaie en kleurrijke regenboog betoverd de hemel, met er voor opvliegende vogels. De koeien staan in het donker op de voorgrond. Een echt Nederlands meesterwerk uit de Haagse School.
Locatie: Dit schilderij van Willem Roelofs hangt in het Kunstmuseum Den Haag, in de gelijknamige stad. 
Image: “The Rainbow,” from 1875, by Willem Roelofs (The Hague School). In the painting, the sun shines through the dark skies onto the meadows. A beautiful and colorful rainbow enchants the sky, with birds flying in front of it. The cows stand in the dark in the foreground. A true Dutch masterpiece from the Hague School.
Location: This painting by Willem Roelofs is located in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, in the city of the same name. The museum is situated at Stadhouderslaan 41 in the western part of the Zorgvliet district. The building was designed by the Dutch architect Hein (H.P.) Berlage.

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