DAVID ADOLPHE CONSTANT ARTZ (The Hague 1837 – The Hague 1890)

At Grandmother’s

signed in the lower left Artz
oil on canvas
26 x 19 5/8 inches (66 x 50 cm.)
Provenance: D. Sala & Zonen, Leiden,[1] prior to 1936
Private Collection, Florida, circa 1968 until the present time

Much like their seventeenth century counterparts, a group of painters known as the Hague School in the 1870s came to embrace as their subject matter the native Dutch landscape and the everyday lives of its rural inhabitants, most notably the fisher folk of the coastal villages.[2] Within ten years the Hague School artists’ works would prove so popular that incredibly a mania for all things Dutch would be felt throughout the world, and would dominate the art in Holland until well after the turn of the century.[3] By embracing simple themes remarkable for their ordinariness, the Hague School succeeded in striking a chord with a public whose own placidity was constantly being rattled by the evolving modernity of the times. Conveyed through the employment of subtle tones, hazy skies and subjects of happenstance their mix of nostalgia and realism enchanted viewers. The Hague became the center of the movement because it was semi-rural surrounded by meadows, polders, waterways, dunes and woods, and nearby Scheveningen provided a wealth of material for artists seeking to paint the shore and its fishing community.[4]

Jozef Israëls was considered the dean of the Hague School and David Adolphe Constant Artz his most important follower.[5] Artz began his training in 1855 at the Amsterdam Academie under Louis Roijer and Johannes Egenberger, and would remain in Amsterdam until 1864. During this period he would be influenced by August Allebé but more importantly a lifelong friendship with Jozef Israëls formed. In 1859 they traveled together to Zandvoort. He would also be the first of the Hague School artists to follow Israëls’ lead of working on the beach at Scheveningen. In 1859 Artz publically exhibited for the first time, taking part in the Tentoonstelling von Levende Meesters (Exhibition of Living Masters). In 1864 he left Amsterdam to live in Zweeloo, Drenthe for a year. From 1866 until 1874 he shared a studio with Jacob Maris and Frederick Hendrik Kaemmerer. He was one of the first of the Hague School artists to work in Paris (Jacob Maris having preceded him by one year) enabled by his patron and benefactor Johannes Kneppelhout. Artz created quite a commotion upon his arrival by including in his baggage a large collection of Scheveningen peasant costumes. As previously in Holland, Artz during his sojourn in Paris continued to paint beach scenes and interior views that featured the fishing communities of the North Sea. During this period Artz became interested in Japanese prints which had recently become available in Paris, and painted a few genre scenes of interiors with Japanese décor and subjects. While based in Paris he also traveled to Scotland from May-June 1869, Germany in November of that year, England in 1870 and Italy in January, 1872. By 1874 he returned to the Netherlands to live permanently in The Hague.[6]

Artz in his own time was held in high esteem by the public as well as his fellow artists. He was awarded gold medals at exhibitions in Munich and Vienna, as well as a Diploma and Medal of Honor in Dresden. In 1879 he was made Knight of the Oaken Crown of Luxembourg and in 1889 also became a Knight of the Order of St. Michael of Bavaria. In 1880 he received an Honorable Mention at the Salon in Paris and won a gold medal in 1883 at the International and Colonial Exhibition, Amsterdam. In Paris he was a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by 1889. He also served as Vice President of the International Jury of Award at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, Paris. In 1893 four works by Artz were chosen to be included in the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago.[7] An American reviewer wrote of this show “The works of giants like Rembrandt, Van der Neer, Ruysdael, Holbein and Franz Hals are almost equaled now by masters like Israels, Mesdag, Bosboom, Maris, Mauve and Artz”. Artz’s entries A Girl Knitting, The Pet Lamb, Idle Hours on the Dunes and Girl Sleeping on the Dunes were listed under the category of “Immortal Works”.[8] His works formed part of museum collections of Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum and Municipal Museum); Cambridge, England; Chicago; Dordrecht; Glasgow; Haarlem; The Hague (Gemeentemuseum and Mesdag Museum); Leewarden; Montreal; New York (Brooklyn and the Metropolitan Museum); Oxford; Rotterdam; St. Louis; Tulsa and Zandvoort.[9]

Much enamored with the picturesque dwellings of the rural population, a favorite subject of the Hague School was the depiction of a family group gathered around a table sharing a simple meal.[10] Ronald de Leeuw in his introduction for The Hague School Book remarked that the group “derived poetry from a view of the kitchen”.[11] Artz excelled at this type of interior scene in which every detail has been carefully recorded in emulation of his seventeenth century predecessors.[12] Vincent van Gogh an admirer of the Hague School in general and Artz in particular wrote to his brother Theo in a letter dated Etten, Friday, August 26, 1881 about an exhibition in The Hague[13] he had just visited in which he described a drawing by Artz of an “old man and woman eating porridge, very important, very good and serious.”

There is a large version of At Grandmother’s (131.5 x 91.5 cm.) in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It was painted in 1883 and shown in an exhibition in The Hague in 1884 where it was purchased by the museum.[14] This undoubtedly must have sparked interest in the composition and created a demand for the image to be replicated as several versions of the composition in varying sizes are recorded, and Artz was known for executing repetitions of his own works.[15] Regarded as one of the highlights of the collection in the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma is another version by Artz of At Grandmother’s.[16] The iconic nature of the image must have appealed to contemporaries as the perfect summation of the mix of idealism and realism that characterized these artists and their times.

In a cottage under a wooden beamed ceiling a grandmother with her two granddaughters clothed in the traditional garb of Katwijk[17] (where the artist spent his summers and maintained a cottage in the dunes)[18] sit on wooden chairs around a gate-leg table in a kitchen sharing a simple meal of bread and an apple. The grandmother carefully slices a piece of bread while the younger girl looks on expectantly. Her sister sips milk from a small delftware bowl watching the proceedings. Sunlight floods the scene from an unseen window on the right. In the foreground are the cast-off wooden shoes of the older child. In the right area of the background the grandmother’s straw hat (a type typically worn by the local fishwives over their white caps) and cloak hang from a peg. A sagging green curtain covers the opening into the next room. In the left background a rack of spoons is mounted on the wall near the hearth’s curtain. The wooden cornice of the fireplace has two apples and a bowl along its edge. The hearth’s firewall is decorated with gleaming delft tiles. A straw basket covered with a cloth is at its base. The wooden floorboards are covered by a rush mat. The colors of brown and gold predominate throughout the composition with the whites and reds of the sitters’ clothing providing highlights. The sunlight further accents the ruddiness of the girls’ cheeks, and a particularly beautiful passage is rendered by the play of light that frames the older sister’s head and back. The solemnity of the scene is reflective of the work’s primordial message, a depiction of the act of giving sustenance (underlined by the meal’s main component – bread the “staff of life”) the fulfillment of mankind’s most basic need. It is little wonder that when foreign critics reviewed exhibitions of the Hague School painters they heralded a revival of the Golden Age of Dutch Painting.[19]

We are very grateful to Tanya Paul of the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa and Linda Bedijn of the Region Archief Leiden for their assistance in the writing of this entry.


[1] D. Sala was a personal friend of many of the Hague School artists, often taking them on trips in his sailing-boat on the lakes in the south of Holland. The firm was in existence until 1935. (see John Sillevis, “Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch”, in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, & traveling, 1983, p. 287.
[2] Ronald de Leeuw, “Introduction”, in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 13.
[3] Hans Kraan, “The Vogue for Holland” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 115.
[4] Leeuw, op. cit., pp. 13, 14, 16.
[5] John Sillevis, “Adolphe Artz” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 157.
[6] Biographical information taken from Thieme-Becker, “David Adolf Constant Artz” in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, volume II, Veb. E. A. Seeman Verlag, Leipzig, 1908, pp. 158-159; Dr. Jos. de Gruyter, “David Adolphe Constant Artz” in De Haagse School, volume 2, Rotterdam, 1968-1969, p. 95; Ronald de Leeuw, “Towards a New Landscape Art” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 63; and John Sillevis, “Adolphe Artz” in The Hague School, op. cit., pp. 157, 159.
[7] Biographical information taken from “David Adolf Constant Artz” in Catalogue of Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Published by the Museum, 1901, p. 123; W.E. Henley, “David Adolf Constant Artz” in Paintings on Permanent Exhibition – City Art Museum of St. Louis, Printed for the Museum, 1901, pp. 16-17; and Pieter A. Scheen, “David Adolph Constant Artz” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1880, s’Gravenhage, 1981, p. 15.
[8] Henry Davenport Northrop, The World’s Fair as Seen in One Hundred Days, National Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1893, p. 297.
[9] Metropolitan Museum, 1901, op. cit., p. 123; Henley, op. cit., p. 16; Scheen, op. cit., p. 15.
[10] Ronald de Leeuw “Introduction” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 20.
[11] See Ronald de Leeuw, “Introduction” in The Hague School Book, Gemeentemuseum, c. 2004, p. 7.
[12] C.C.P. Marius, Dutch Painters of the 19th Century, Antiques Collector’s Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1988, p. 173.
[13] The exhibition Van Gogh attended was the Sixth Exhibition of Drawings by the Dutch Drawing Society held in the Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague from 1881-1882.
[14] Marianne Buikstra-de Boer & Gary Schwartz, eds., “David Adolphe Constant Artz” in All the Paintings of the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1976, p. 88, no. A1187.
[15] Written communication from Mayken Jonkman of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorisches Documentatie dated October 3, 2011.
[16] Tanya Paul, “The Philbrook Museum of Art” in Codart Courant 20, Codart, The Hague, Summer 2010, p. 11.
[17] Written communication with Linda Bedijn of the Regional Archief Leiden, dated October 7, 2011.
[18] Richard Heath “Adolphe Artz” in The Magazine of Art, volume 20-21, Cassell and Company, Limited, London, November 1896 to April 1897, p. 82.
[19] Hans Kraan, op. cit., p. 115.
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