20 April 2012
From 30 May to 26 August 2012, the exhibition Paintbrush Princesses II. Painting as a profession will be on view at the museum The Mesdag Collection, The Hague.
The exhibition in the former residence of the 19th-century artist Sientje Mesdag-van Houten will feature some 40 paintings, miniatures, and sculptures by Mesdag herself and her female contemporaries.
Thérèse Schwartze, Henriette Ronner-Knip, and Suze Robertson are among the artists whose work will be included. Like Sientje Mesdag, they belonged to the first generation of women who had the opportunity to build up a professional career.
They were among the leading painters in the Netherlands. Sientje Mesdag, married to the well-known Hague School painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag, was the self-appointed help and stay of the women artists, and collected their work.
Aside from works belonging to The Mesdag Collection, the exhibition also includes loans from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Rijksmuseum, as well as numerous paintings from private collections.
One of the main highlights of the show is the self-portrait of Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918), which she painted for the celebrated portrait collection in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. The last time this work was on display in the Netherlands was 100 years ago.
Women in art
In the 19th century, over 1,100 women were practitioners of the visual arts in the Netherlands. Although some saw their artistic pursuits exclusively as a hobby, a growing number of women took up painting as a profession. Until 1850, it was mostly women from artists’ families who proved that they could build up independent careers as painters. Elisabeth Kiers-Haanen, Francina Louise Schot and Henriëtte Geertruida Knip, for instance, specialised in painting portrait miniatures, small still lifes, and genre pieces. As educational opportunities expanded in the latter half of the century, and art academies started admitting female students, the number of professional women artists in the Netherlands rapidly increased, and soon it was impossible to imagine the art world without them. Thérèse Schwartze, Henriette Ronner-Knip and numerous others held shows in the Netherlands and abroad, and sold their work to collectors and galleries. They also joined artists’ societies such as Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, which placed their presence in the art world on a firm footing.
Sientje Mesdag-van Houten
The collection of the painter couple Hendrik Willem and Sientje Mesdag, now known as The Mesdag Collection, contains a remarkably large number of works by women artists. Sientje worked tirelessly for years promoting the careers of gifted young women artists, in whose work the art collectors and dealers of the day took little interest. Besides buying from well-known artists in her circle of friends, she also purchased work by women painters who were still quite obscure. She helped a great many women to set up independently as professional artists.
Collaboration with National Museum Het Loo and the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD)
Paintbrush Princesses II. Painting as a profession is the sequel to Painting Princesses I: Women Artists at Court in the Nineteenth Century, which is on view in National Museum Het Loo until 28 May 2012. Both exhibitions were compiled by guest curator Hanna Klarenbeek and organised in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD).
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated book (published in Dutch only) on the position and development of female artists in the Netherlands of the 19th century: Penseelprinsessen en broodschilderessen: Vrouwen in de beeldende kunst 1808-1913, by Hanna Klarenbeek, 240 pages, 150 illustrations, € 29.50, THOTH Publishers, in collaboration with the RKD and the Van Gogh Museum.