Tumult in the City – Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

George Hendrik Breitner (1857 – 1923) Dam Square (The Niewe Kerk in Amsterdam) ©Singer Laren

Tumult in the City, is the first major exhibition of the Tachtigers (artists of the 1880s) or Dutch Impressionists as they are sometimes known, for many years. Featuring over 100 paintings and drawings from celebrated Dutch artists such as George Hendrik Brietner, Issac Israels and Willem Witsen, it shows how this new generation of artists set out to capture the rapidly changing urban life of the day.

The late 19th century was a period of major upheaval in Dutch Society.  From 1870, the population of cities began to expand faster than that of rural areas with Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam all soon doubling in size. This mass migration led to a housing crisis which resulted in the development of new suburbs around the old town centres. At the same time industrialisation and increasing affluence began to make luxury products and public entertainment available to the masses as new forms of entertainment began arriving from France.

The artists revelled in these unprecedented developments, painting the cities in all their beauty and ugliness, street parties and low-life bars, but also smart fashion houses, restaurants and theatres. Each artist had his own favoured domain, reflecting the many different facets of the modern city.

Breitner depicted ladies on leisurely shopping trips, but also toiling labourers. Israels, too, showed both sides of the city, painting chic fashion shows as well as working-class cafés whilst Jacobus van Looy recorded jubilant public holiday crowds. They revelled in the hustle and bustle of this new urban life. By contrast, the more sensitive Willem Witsen and Eduard Karsen specialized in more tranquil townscapes.

The exhibition promises to show a vibrant impression of nineteenth-century life in the three major Dutch cities, from trams on the busy Rokin and alluring window displays to bawdy nightlife and the non-stop bustle of the streets.






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