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George Hendrik Breitner

Netherlands, September 12th 1857 - June 5th 1923



Born on September 12, 1857, in Rotterdam, George Hendrik Breitner, the Dutch painter, delved into sketching war scenes and horses during his youth.

Leaving school at fourteen, he found employment in an office while pursuing drawing lessons in his free time from Rotterdam's Neurdenberg.

Despite his father, a grain broker, initially dismissing his artistic potential, Neurdenberg's encouragement eventually convinced his father to allow Breitner to embark on his artistic education at the Hague Academy.

During this period, Breitner found support from patrons Rochussen and Stolk, both of whom acquired several of his works. Renowned for his horse studies, he collaborated with H.W. Mesdag on the panorama, contributing scenes like the artillery and the village of Scheveningen, completing the canvas in 1881.

In the early years of his career, Breitner faced challenges selling his works and experienced bouts of hunger, leading to hospitalization in 1882.

Initially aspiring to be a history painter like Rochussen, he shifted focus after being inspired by French writers Flaubert and Zola, directing his attention to capturing contemporary street life.

Relocating to Paris in 1884 to work in Cormon's studio, he later moved to Amsterdam, where he lived and worked until his death. Amsterdam became the backdrop for his significant works, establishing him as the city's primary interpreter, capturing its life both day and night. Beginning with nudes and portraits, including the renowned portrayal of actress Theo Frenkel Bouwmeester, Breitner consistently sought fresh ideas, techniques, and subjects.

In Amsterdam, he joined the artistic and literary circle around the bimonthly magazine De Nieuwe Gids, becoming a leader of a group of young artists who influenced the city's artistic climate during the 1880s.

Diligent work brought success, with his depictions of the city's rapid expansion showcasing bustling activity. Deliberately emphasizing the city's atmosphere, Breitner carved a distinct path, setting himself apart from artists with more topographic or historical approaches.

In 1905, Breitner joined the Royal Archaeological Society, dedicated to preserving cultural heritage. After the replacement of horse trams with electric trams in 1900, he ceased painting Dam Square, citing its lost charm.

Turning to photography, he documented the demolition of the old Nieuwezijds Kapel and other buildings, using these photos as studies for his paintings.

After 1914, Breitner struggled to complete paintings due to illness and financial challenges. Despite receiving good prices for his work, he passed away on June 5, 1923, in Amsterdam.

Alongside his Amsterdam paintings, he left behind captivating interiors, exquisite portraits, and nudes, securing George Breitner's legacy as the greatest representative of Dutch Impressionism.

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