Exhibition: Breitner – Girl in Kimono

Rijksmuseum - Breitner, Girl in Kimono

Exhibition dates: 20 February – 22 May 2016

George Hendrik Breitner was born in Rotterdam in 1857. In 1876 he attended the academy in The Hague, before working for a year in Willem Maris’ studio. In this early period he was influenced by the painters of The Hague School. Breitner deliberately chose his models from the lower classes: workers, maids and residents of poor districts. He saw himself as ‘the people’s painter’. In 1886 he moved to Amsterdam, where, among other things, he captured city life in sketches, paintings and photographs. Sometimes he made different images of a single subject from different angles or in different weather conditions. On occasion, photographs served as a direct example for a particular painting, such as the girls in kimonos. Breitner was a contemporary of Isaac Israëls. Both artists belonged to the Amsterdam Impressionism movement.

The countless versions of a girl in a kimono, which is considered an icon of Japonism, emerged between 1893 and 1896. Young model Geesje Kwak posed for almost all of Breitner’s paintings, being immortalised in the process. Based on new research, the exhibition displays the full series of fourteen paintings for the first time, including a hitherto unknown ‘Girl in a Red Kimono’ from a private collection. Besides the paintings, there are also drawings, sketches and photographs used by the artist in preparation.

There have been exhibitions in the past devoted to this beloved theme of Breitner’s, but the paintings of Girl in a Kimono have never been displayed all together. Displaying all the Girl in a Kimono works together, combined with the preliminary studies in the form of drawings, sketches and photographs, as well as Breitner’s easel and paint box, gives the exhibition above all an impression of the way in which the painter went about his work in his studio on the Lauriergracht in Amsterdam.

In total there are twenty paintings on display, including thirteen Girl in Kimono works and one nude. Furthermore, fifteen drawings and fifteen photographs are displayed, plus Japanese prints, and two beautiful kimonos from the same period as those worn in the paintings.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


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