Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


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

The Firstborn

signed and dated Artz 1875 in the lower left

watercolor on paper

20 ¾ x 14  inches          (52.7 x 36.5 cm.) 


Leggatt Brothers, London

Private Collection, Chicago 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 fisherfolk of the coastal villages. [1] 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. [2] 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. [3]

Jozef Israëls was considered the dean of the Hague School and David Adolphe Constant Artz his most important follower. [4] Artz began his training in 1855 at the Amsterdam Academy 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 Josef 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 interior views and beach scenes 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. [5]

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 Saint Michel 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. [6] 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 Israëls, Mesdag, Bosboom, Maris, Mauve and Artz”.  Artz’s entries A Girl KnittingThe Pet LambIdle Hours on the Dunes and Girl Sleeping on the Dunes were listed under the category of “Immortal Works”. [7]  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. [8]

The Firstborn depicts a young mother of Katwijk (identifiable by her cap and traditional dress of the region) lovingly holding her first child. Within the simplicity of the modest cottage, sparsely decorated by a few prized items, the rustic grandeur of the cradle dominates the scene.  Emblematic of warmth, love and protection it echoes the young mother’s feelings for her child. In all likelihood the wife of a fisherman, the framed marine scene hanging on the wall represents the importance of the sea in the family’s life.



[1] Ronald de Leeuw, “Introduction”, in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, & traveling, 1983, p. 13.

[2] Hans Kraan, “The Vogue for Holland” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 115.

[3] Leeuw, op. cit., pp. 13, 14, 16.

[4] John Sillevis, “Adolphe Artz” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 157.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] Henry Davenport Northrop, The World’s Fair as Seen in One Hundred Days, National Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1893, p. 297.

[8] Metropolitan Museum, 1901, op. cit., p. 123; Henley, op. cit., p. 16; Scheen, op. cit., p. 15.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

Tel: (212) 517-3643            Email: