Van Gogh Museum Present Masterpieces from the Museum Mesdag

Masters from the Museum Mesdag, open through 4 July, focus’s on the collection of works on paper, will be on show on the second floor of the Rietveld building. The Mesdag Museum, gifted to the Dutch State in 1903 and now part of the Van Gogh Museum, is currently undergoing renovation. The run-up to the museum’s reopening in the winter of 2010/2011 presents an opportunity to tell the story behind this remarkable collection that belonged to Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915). The collection he built up from 1866 onwards comprises paintings, drawings, watercolours and pastels by artists such as Jean-François Millet, Gustave Courbet, Théodore Rousseau, Anton Mauve, Jacob Maris and Jozef Israëls — artists whom Vincent van Gogh greatly admired. Mesdag brought together one of the world’s biggest and most important collections of the French Barbizon School. On show alongside the Masters from the Museum Mesdag from 22 January is Painting in the open air: myth and reality. This presentation shows the results of research into the work Cliffs at Villerville-sur-mer, painted in 1864-1872 by Charles François Daubigny (1817-1878) from the Museum Mesdag collection.

Museum Mesdag
In 1887 the painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915) opened the Mesdag Museum in
The Hague, one of the first museums of modern art in the Netherlands. This museum, housed in a building next door to his house, was devoted principally to works by French and Dutch masters. As a painter just starting out, Mesdag purchased his first works mostly from artists in his immediate circle. He acquired paintings by his teachers Johannes Warnardus Bilders and Willem Roelofs and by his cousin Lourens Alma Tadema. Later he mainly collected works by the French painters of the Barbizon School and from his fellow artists of the Hague School. Mesdag also displayed a particular interest in sketches and preliminary studies. His predilection for the directness conveyed by these roughly sketched works was shared by other artists of the Hague School.

In collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) this coming year research will be conducted into the Museum Mesdag’s collection of works on paper. The results of this research will be published via the RKD databases and elsewhere:

Painting in the open air: myth and reality
The annual presentation of Van Gogh’s studio practice centres on the painting Cliffs at Villerville-sur-mer by Charles-François Daubigny from the Museum Mesdag collection. Thanks to this canvas Daubigny came to be regarded as a key precursor to the Impressionists because a first biography from the artist written in 1875 said the canvas had been painted entirely in the open air. However technical research has since shown this to be a myth. Daubigny painted this canvas in his studio, and moreover reworked it twice. The research work on Cliffs at Villerville-sur-mer was made possible by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute (Los Angeles).
Together with its Partner in Science Shell and the Netherlands Collections Institute (ICN) the Van Gogh Museum is conducting extensive art historical and technical research into Van Gogh’s studio practice and that of his contemporaries. Every year this generates a presentation based on the research results. The presentation will be on show until 23 January 2011 (on the second floor of the Rietveld building).