BREITNER, George Hendrik
(b. 1857, Rotterdam, d. 1923, Amsterdam)


Dutch painter and photographer. He trained as a painter and draughtsman at the academy in The Hague from 1875 to 1877. Although the Dutch painter Charles Rochussen taught the students history and landscape painting, Breitner's interests did not lie in this area. In 1880 he worked for a year in the studio of Willem Maris after his academy training. Maris belonged to the Hague school of painters, who worked in the plein-air tradition of the French Barbizon school. Breitner painted outdoor life with them, although it was not the picturesqueness of the landscape or the Dutch skies that appealed to him.

In the early 1880s, he and Vincent van Gogh painted the residents of the working class neighbourhoods of The Hague and in the province of Drenthe. Both artists recorded the vitality of city life in their sketchbooks. Breitner consciously chose these themes and motifs: he wanted to paint people going about their daily lives, and on his trips through the towns and docks he was constantly in search of motifs and impressions that he could use in his paintings.

In 1884 Breitner went to Paris, he met Toulouse-Lautrec and Bernard in the Cormon studio. In 1886 he settled in Amsterdam. He painted urban life in a lively manner with naturalistic perspicacity and delicate colouring. He later reduced his palette to black, white, ochre and brown.

He also painted landscapes, portraits, genre pictures, and nudes. His works are marked by a sharp characterization of forms, delicacy of feeling, freedom of brush work, and expressive contrasts and nuances in treatment of light and shade. He frequently depicted the life of the Amsterdam streets, either noisy and bustling or quiet and deserted at different times of the year.

Between 1903 and 1906 he lived in Aerdenbout near Haarlem. He made several trips abroad, including Berlin, London, Ghent, Norway, and in 1908, Pittsburgh.

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