10 September 2019
The exhibition will be on show at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague until 5 January 2020.
The exhibition Jean-François Millet and the Hague School will be open to the public from Friday 13 September at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague. Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) is viewed as the greatest peasant painter, who pioneered the dignified depiction of the tough lives of rural people. Millet served as an example in this respect for many other artists, including those of the Hague School. His radical compositions as well as his themes and atmosphere influenced artists like Jozef Israëls, Anton Mauve and Matthijs Maris.
For the first time, this new exhibition explores how these Dutch artists were inspired by and adopted aspects of Millet’s art. Jean-François Millet and the Hague School opens this Friday (13 September) at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague, where it will run until 5 January 2020.
Millet and the artists of the Hague School
Hague School painters like Jozef Israëls, Anton Mauve, Matthijs Maris, Willem Roelofs, Bernardus Johannes Blommers and David Adolph Constant Artz respected Millet for the dignified way in which he represented hard rural labour and domestic life – an approach that ran counter to the traditions of the period.
Like Millet, they travelled from the city to the countryside to paint and to capture the natural landscape and everyday village life. The French artist was such a source of inspiration for the Hague School that Jozef Israëls was often referred to as the ‘Dutch Millet’.
The Hague School painters were similarly impressed by Millet’s non-academic style and radical compositions. The French artist zoomed in on the figures of peasants in the landscape and filled large swathes of his canvases with nothing more than the roughly tilled soil. Jean-François Millet and the Hague School highlights these characteristic elements as assimilated in various works by the Dutch painters, which are shown side by side with paintings by Millet himself.
The Mesdag Collection and Millet
Hendrik Willem and Sientje Mesdag were artists and collectors. They acquired work by Dutch contemporaries of the Hague School but also by French artists like Millet, whom they viewed as one of their greatest examples. Around the time they opened their Museum Mesdag in 1887, the couple bought four paintings, three pastel drawings and several prints by Millet for the collection. The fragile pastel Haystacks (1867–68), as well as etchings by Millet and watercolours by Mauve, are rarely seen because of their sensitivity to light, and will be displayed here for the first time in many years to mark the exhibition.
To this day, the collection assembled by the Mesdags remains one of the largest Millet ensembles at any Dutch museum. It has been supplemented for the exhibition by loans from the Netherlands and abroad. Two Millet-inspired paintings by Jozef Israëls, including The Shepherd’s Prayer, have been loaned from the United States.
Millet at the Van Gogh Museum
At the same time as Jean-François Millet and the Hague School at The Mesdag Collection, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is holding the exhibition Jean-François Millet: Sower of Modern Art (4 October 2019–12 January 2020). Both exhibitions highlight Millet’s influence on different generations of artists, with the one at The Mesdag Collection focusing on the members of the Hague School. The Van Gogh Museum Foundation has managed The Mesdag Collection since 1990.
Millet’s imposing painting Hagar and Ishmael will be shown at the Van Gogh Museum for the duration of the exhibition. Its normal place at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague is temporarily occupied by a work by the leading photographer Hellen van Meene, inspired by Millet’s art. Millet thus remains a source of inspiration for contemporary artists too.