Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


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

On the Sand in Scheveningen

signed Artz in the lower right, signed and inscribed with title on the stretcher partially effaced On the Sand ______ Scheveningen, D.A.C. Ar

oil on canvas

31 x 43 ½  inches          (78.8 x 110.5 cm.)


Acton Griscom

Kende Galleries, Inc., New York

Estate of Barbara Beegel, Auburn, Maine


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]

Josef 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 Israëls formed.  In 1859 they traveled together to Zandvoort.  He would be the first of the Hague School artists to follow Israëls’ lead of working on the beach at Scheveningen.  In 1859 Artz began to exhibit, 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 earliest 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.  Upon his arrival, Artz created quite a commotion by including in his baggage a large collection of Scheveningen peasant costumes.  As in Holland, Artz continued to paint interior views and beach scenes that featured the fishing communities of the North Sea.  During this period Artz also 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 traveled to Scotland from May-June and Germany in November 1869, England in 1870 and Italy in January, 1872.  By 1874 he returned to the Netherlands to live permanently in The Hague. [5]

Artz 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 Knitting, The Pet Lamb, Idle Hours on the Dunes and Girl Sleeping on the Dunes were listed under the category of “Immortal Works”. [7]  His works formed part of the 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]

Hague School paintings proved particularly popular in England, Canada and America.[9] As evidenced by the English titling on the stretcher, this work was obviously completed for one of those markets, and an exact replica of the scene by Artz in watercolor turned up in London, sold by Christie’s on June 5, 2003.[10]

Depicting an idyllic moment three generations of a family sit on the beach at Scheveningen waiting for the return of the fleet. While a purple haze hangs over the ocean the sun shines brightly above the trio and judging from the cast shadows appears to be midday. Contentedly smoking a pipe an old fisherman sits on a dune covered by sea-grass and wildflowers in the center of the composition. Undoubtedly the family patriarch he further represents the painting’s heart. Artz was deeply attached to the fishing community of Scheveningen who were completely dependent on the sea for their livelihood. Never assured of easy passage through potentially treacherous waters, as the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean is prone to huge storms that make navigation hazardous, a constant dichotomous dilemma of unease and appeasement characterized their existence. The fisherman with his battered shoes, roughly patched jacket, weather-beaten face yet serene expression is the embodiment of this reality. Charles Fish Howell in a 1912 account expressed the general esteem placed upon this group. “The faces of the elder fisher-folk are studies in wrinkles. Their eyes are brave and quizzical, but with a certain settled hardness, not perhaps to be unlooked for in men and women who came of a stock that for five hundred years has forced even the savage North Sea to yield them a livelihood… strong faces are these, hard, weather-beaten faces, but eloquent of tenacity and desperate courage. They have been called ‘the most poetic and original of all Hollanders.’”[11] Artz’s imagery in this and similar compositions had helped instill such beliefs.

The fisherman’s daughter sits nearby patiently knitting a man’s brown sock awaiting her husband’s return from the sea. It was very common at this time for Dutch women to walk around knitting as they pursued errands or waited on the beach for the return of the fleet.[12] Due to such practices they came to be viewed as particularly industrious. Dressed in the traditional garb of the village she wears its distinctive white cap held in place by gold filigree knobs. Her shirt is white with bare arms below the elbow topped by a bluish-grey shawl that covers her shoulders, crosses on the chest, and fastens at the waist. All young women of the village wore short sleeves as sun burnt arms were considered particularly beautiful. Her skirt is a medley of black and white stripes covered by a grey apron. Black stockings and sand-caked leather shoes complete the ensemble. She is the perfect mixture of charm and utility.[13] Her angelic daughter in white cap and shirt, brown vest, bell-shaped blue skirt and brown boots sits playing with wildflowers. (Artz must have been particularly captivated by her image as she reappears in a number of his works, notably in Kinderen in het duin reproduced in the exhibition catalog of the Katwijks Museum, Tussen Katwijk en Parijs: David Adolphe Constant Artz 1837 – 1890).[14] Her expression as well as gestures mimics those of her mother. She of course represents the future as well as the assurance of the continuity of the community.




[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] Ronald de 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; W.E. Henley, op. cit., p. 16; Pieter A. Scheen, op. cit., p. 15.

[9] Hans Kraan, op. cit., p. 115.

[10] See Christie’s South Kensington, June, 5, 2003, lot 842, David Adolphe Constant Artz, A Fisherman and his Family, pencil and watercolor heightened with white, 22 4/5 x 32 5/12 inches (58 x 82.5 cm.) signed, sold for $13,389.

[11] Charles Fish Howell, Around the Clock in Europe, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1912, pp. 144 – 145.

[12] Gussie Packard Dupois, “Our Picture Supplement and Its Artist” in Intelligence: A Journal of Education, E.G. Vaile Publisher, Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1901, p. 434.

[13] A.D.M. Jr., “A Traveler’s Notes of a Trip to the Land of Dykes,” in New Amsterdam Gazette, volume 3, no. 1., New York, August 31, 1883, p. 5; and Beatrix Jungam, Holland, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1904, p. 3.

[14] See Tiny de Liefde-van Brakel, Tussen Katwijk en Parijs: David Adolphe Constant Artz 1837 – 1890, Stichting Katwijks Museum, Katwijk, 2001, p. 72, no. 58.

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