JONGKIND AND FRIENDS at Dordrechts Museum

Dordrecht Museum has another exhibition about Dutch artists working in France, complementing the ones at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and at the Mesdag in The Hague. Jongkind and Friends concentrates on Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891).

Jongkind was born in Dordrecht, but spent most of his time in France. He is often called the pioneer of Impressionism. Personally, I found this exhibition far more interesting than the one at the Van Gogh Museum.

The latter exhibition serves as a nice introduction to this one. However, this does not mean one needs to have visited it, before enjoying Jongkind and Friends. The Amsterdam exhibition gives an overview. Jongkind and Friends focuses on the artist and his influence on French painters.

On the museum’s first floor, two or three paintings welcome visitors. It becomes immediately clear, these represent an evolution or rather a revolution. The paintings by Jongkind and his friends show a change from Dutch skies and French academic styles, towards Impressionism.

Turn right and start a visit to a series of stunning, beautiful paintings. This museum advertises its temporary exhibition as “impressive”. It does not exaggerate.

Growing up in Dordrecht, Jongkind captured its historic charm. Once in Paris, he became fascinated by how fast the city was changing. His cityscapes capture Paris during the Haussmann destruction and rebuilding frenzy.

When Jongkind’s money ran out, he was forced to return to Holland. He missed Paris so much, his friends missed him so much, an auction of their works was organized. Enough money was raised and Jongkind returned to Paris.

But his friends knew what the problem was. So a fellow artist accompanied Jongkind, to ensure he remained sober. Once in Paris, a housekeeper was found to look after him. She accompanied Jongkind everywhere and can be found in several paintings.

Settled in France, Jongkind did not just paint Paris. He traveled and holidayed, painting landscapes, nightscapes, coastal and river scenes as he went.

Jongkind made friends easily. These included Monet, Sisley, Boudin, Daubigny, Pissarro and many others. Pisarro claimed landscapes without Jongkind’s influence would have looked totally different. Monet, whom Jongkind befriended on coming across him drawing on a beach, stated, “He educated my eyes”. Manet called Jongkind the father of the modern landscape.

Jongkind’s influence should not be underestimated. Take Monet’s works exhibited here. Before meeting Jongkind, Monet painted in an unexciting, traditional style. Under Jongkind’s influence this swiftly changes. Monet’s artistic development, ending with the waterlily paintings which continue to enchant, becomes perfectly clear.

Though settled in France, Jongkind regularly visited the Netherlands. He often invited French friends along. The exhibition contains French versions of Dordrecht and Dutch landscapes, including Monet’s impressions of bulb fields.

Towards the end of the exhibition, visitors can admire drawings and watercolours. These illustrate Jongkind’s swift and light style even better. But though he clearly influenced Impressionists, he never considered himself to be part of this group. He preferred to remain an independent pioneer.

What makes this exhibition so special is not just tracing Jongkind’s influence on Monet and other famous French painters. Many of the works are exhibited for the first time in the Netherlands. Quite a few are loans from private collections. Once this exhibition closes, visitors may have to wait to see these works again.

So don’t miss this chance to visit this wonderful exhibition – and what Jongkind called Holland’s most beautiful town.   Kate Den   5th December 2017


JONGKIND AND FRIENDS at Dordrechts Museum runs until 27th of May 2018.

Photograph shows Jongkind’s Le Port de Dordrecht 1869 courtesy of Dordrechts Museum