Isaac Israëls

The painter Isaac Lazarus Israëls 1865 – 1934

The life and work of Isaac Israëls

Isaac Israëls was born on February 3, 1865 in Amsterdam as the son of Joseph Israëls, one of the masters of the Hague School, and Aleida Schaap. Both came from Amsterdam’s Orthodox milieu with a love for literature and painting. When Isaac is about 4 years old he makes his first drawings. In 1871 the family moved to The Hague. His father taught him the principles of painting and in 1877 Isaac left school to travel with his parents to Paris, Italy and Munich. From 1878 onwards, Isaac visited the Paris Salon every year and when he made his debut there in 1882 with his painting ‘Military funeral’, he received an honourable mention. When Isaac returned to The Hague, he went to the Academy of Visual Arts from 1880 to 1882, but acquired most of his knowledge through self-study. In 1881 Isaac made his debut at the Exhibition Living Masters in The Hague with “The rehearsal of the signal”. The painting was not even finished yet, but was immediately purchased by Hendrik Willem Mesdag.

At the age of 20, Isaac Israëls goes to the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. Shortly afterwards, however, he was sent away from school with the remark that “as an already formed artist at the Academy, he was be completely out of place”.

Style of Isaac

Isaac searches for his own new style and stays in Amsterdam to explore the nightlife of Amsterdam together with his painter friends George Breitner and Willem de Zwart. During this period he made the first sketches of portraits, dance halls, circus scenes and nudes. During the day he paints in the studio that he shares with George Breitner in the 1st Parkstraat and uses impressionistic painting and drawing techniques.  Isaac also paints famous personalities from that period, such as Mata Hari and Aletta Jacobs.

As Isaac Israëls was praised a lot already at a young age, he became very insecure and it was only in 1890 that Isaac regained his self-confidence a little and he starts to submit paintings for exhibitions again. His works are painted in a loose, smooth style with light colours and with images of, among others, maids, passers-by and children.

Where did Isaac live and influence of his father Jozef Israëls

When his mother died in 1894, Isaac left with his father and friend Frans Eerens for Spain and North Africa. After that Isaac returns to Amsterdam. During the next period, 1894-1897, Isaac has a love affair with Theo van Gogh’s widow, Johanna (Jo) Gesina Bonger.

The cosmopolitan life around 1900 in The Hague starts to inspire Isaac and he leaves for The Hague again, Koninginnegracht 2, where Isaac and his father also have their studio. In summer they rent a villa from the Oranjehotel in Scheveningen to paint the summer scenes of the beach and the dunes. His father’s lessons will always be reflected in his works, but there are also clear differences with his father’s works. Joseph painted fisherwomen and children and Isaac the elegantly dressed ladies in summer clothes. The techniques and the use of colour were also different.

In the period 1904-1913, Isaac is much in Paris and London. In Paris he paints the dancing couples, terraces and in London the boxers and ballet girls.

Isaac Israëls made a long trip to the Dutch East Indies from 1921 to 1923, where he met the writer Louis Couperus and the architect H.P. Berlage on a boat from Java to Bali. He makes sketchbooks full of figures and portraits. After this trip Isaac returns to the The Hague (Koninginnegracht 2) from where he still undertakes domestic and abroad trips. In 1925, Isaac decided to close the workshop which he had in Paris on the Boulevard de Clinchy from 1904 onwards.

Isaac Israel dies after a carcrash on October 07, 1934 and is cremated on Driehuis-Westerveld in Velsen.

Would you like a masterpiece by Jozef Israëls on your wall?

Do you want one of Jozef ’s masterpieces on your wall? Take a look at his paintings and choose your favourite painting in the desired size.

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