CHILDREN OF THE HAGUE SCHOOL at Panorama Mesdag in The Hague

One hundred and fifty years ago the Child Protection Act was passed to stop child labour in The Netherlands. Although not as strict as the initiator Samuel van Houten wanted, but it did ban children under twelve from working in factories thereby allowing them to go to school. 

In reality a lot of these rules were not enforced and this explains why you still see a lot of children working on the paintings of the The Hague School painters like Josef Israëls, Bernard Blommers and Anton Mauve.

Children were certainly not their main subject, they were mostly landscape and seascape painters, but quite regularly children also featured in their works which you can admire now at the Museum Panoroma Mesdag.

Paintings with children were popular amongst collectors As we know from the records of the art dealer Goupil, the paintings by Blommers on an average sold for fl130,- more when children were included!

Most paintings of children herding cows, feeding chicken or collecting wood have this romantic look and feel. They look poor with mended clothes and bare feel, as Wally Moes paints, but they are hardly shocking to look at. The only really confronting painting is the Matchgirl by Floris Arntzenius (1890). Leaning on crutches in the bitter cold she sells her matches just outside the Passage in The Hague. 

The representations of the painters’ own children show the huge difference in social class. While dressed in beautiful clothes they are captured playing with dolls or some musical instrument. These images were mostly for private use and quite often served as a gift to family members.

Special attention in this show goes out to women painters who chose not to marry and therefore painted other people’s children. They had chosen to be single in order to paint, for women painters were often asked by their husbands to stop painting which, sadly enough, resulted more than not in an unhappy live.

Cherry on the cake is the Panorama Mesdag itself. A 14m high canvas with a 360-degree 120 m diameter view of Scheveningen as it looked like in 1881. You will still be able to recognize certain parts of this sea side resort which at the time was also still a fishing village. Since Mesdag was specialised in the flat bottom ships you see a whole fleet drawn up on the beach.

In between George Hendrik Breitner painted the cavalry and was furthermore involved in painting the village of Scheveningen together with Sientje Mesdag-van Houten. She was a master painter in her own right, so no wonder Mesdag portrayed her while painting on the beach. And of course also here, a mother and child were included by Bernard Blommers and who are facing the sea like we are doing from the platform.

So by visiting the Panorama Mesdag Museum you can kill two birds with one stone: seeing this interesting show as well as the magnificent panorama of Scheveningen. A true value for money!   Wendy FOSSEN  30th January 2024

Children of The Hague School continues at Panorama Mesdag in The Hague until  20th May 2024.

A richly illustrated publication has been published to accompany the exhibition, covering all aspects of the exhibition, supplemented with background stories and ego documents. The authors are Adrienne Quarles van Ufford, head of museum affairs and curator of the exhibition, and Jeroen Kapelle, 19th century curator at the RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History

Published by Waanders Publishers. 112 pages. ISBN 978 94 6262 527 3