UNDER THE SPELL OF NATURE at Mesdag Collection in The Hague

Charles-François Daubigny, Moonlit Landscape with Flock of Sheep, 1859. Charcoal, chalk, pen and ink and watercolour on paper

The Hague’s Mesdag Collection exhibits ten drawings by two artists in an intimate setting. The works how how nature cast a spell over two French artists. These two influenced fellow artists Hendrik Willem Mesdag and his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten.

The ten selected drawings are from the museum’s own collection. Visitors have seldom seen them: drawings are fragile and deteriorate when exposed to light. Proof is in this exhibition, where visitors may notice discolouring in at least one work. A larger frame, now replaced by a smaller one, once protected the edges preventing discolouring by light. Mind: most of the works are displayed in their original frames. 

Who the artists were? Great favourites of Mesdag and his wife, as there are several oil-paintings by the French artists throughout the museum as well. The Mesdags were inspired by Barbizon artists and Theódore Rousseau (1812-1867) and Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878) where among their favourites.

Where Mesdag was inspired by the North Sea, Rousseau and Daubigny were inspired by the landscape of Fontainebleau. Not that all displayed works capture scenes around Barbizon: there is a stunning drawing by Daubigny of a waterfall in the Pyrenees.

The small exhibition space helps visitors detect similarities and differences between Rousseau and Daubigny. Both were obviously under the spell of nature and both liked to experiment with materials. However, Rousseau’s works are detailed and he treats trees and shrubs as individuals. Daubigny on the other hand, is attracted to sweeping landscapes and tries to capture atmosphere.

Some of the exhibited drawings have a clear link to oil-paintings by these artists. At least two of the exhibited drawings can be detected in one of the photos showing the interior of the Mesdag’s home. It will not take visitors much trouble to notice similarities between the exhibited drawings and a few works by the Mesdags themselves.

Inspired by the drawings? The museum offers visitors the chance to try their hand at drawing. Have a try at Rousseau’s detailed style, or Daubigny’s sketchy and moody landscapes. And if the weather is fine: venture outside in the museum’s garden to try capture its stunning red beech or create a botanical flower drawing. Give it a try Kate Den  3rd July 2022

Image with permission of the Mesdag Collection, The Hague.

Under the Spell of Nature continues at Mesdag Collection in The Hague until 30th of October 2022