30 May 2013
From 21 June to 8 September 2013 the exhibition Imagining the Orient will be on view at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague.
Driven by curiosity and a desire for exotic scenes, many Western artists travelled to the mainly Islamic countries around the Mediterranean in the 19th century.
These ‘Orientalists’ painted swarming streets and beguiling women, creating arresting images of the life and people they encountered. The exhibition presents some remarkable products of this Orientalism, including artworks by Marius Bauer, the best-known Dutch Orientalist, and the celebrated American artist John Singer Sargent.
Colourful tiles and other art objects from the Orient from Mesdag’s collection will also be displayed. In addition, the exhibition will include two seldom-exhibited works from the Van Gogh Museum: sculptures inlaid with semi-precious stones by the French sculptor Charles Cordier. With this combination of paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts, the exhibition, which will be opened on 20 June by the mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, will depict the glories of the Orient in a way that has broad imaginative appeal.
The Orient has long had a magical appeal for the people of the Western world. The region conjures up images of enigmatic women and an enchanted atmosphere. The Orientalists drew inspiration from what they encountered here, and presented the beauty of these countries in their work, sometimes well-seasoned with their imagination. Marius Bauer captured the spirit of the age with his appeal to young painters: ‘Go to the East and let us astound the world with the splendour of these countries.’
Among those who were fascinated by the Orient were Hendrik Willem Mesdag and his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten. They collected elegant objects of Oriental decorative art and Orientalist paintings by artists including Singer Sargent and Bauer. For this exhibition the collection is supplemented with a number of loans and rarely exhibited pieces from the Van Gogh Museum.
Various activities will be organised during the exhibition, such as lectures (in Dutch) and events in the garden. Visitors can also enjoy a picnic in the garden during opening times, with a picnic basket from Café Blossom, opposite the museum. On Museum Night on 7 September, The Mesdag Collection will radiate the atmosphere of One Thousand and One Nights.
Lecture (in Dutch) on Sunday 23 June at 2 pm: Jozef Israëls’s journey to Spain and Tangiers by Renske Suijver, curator of the exhibition. Admission free of charge with your museum ticket.