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    Sale 2035

    19th Century European Art and Orientalist Art

    22 October 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 176

    Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915)

    Return of the Fishing Fleet

    Price Realised  


    Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915)
    Return of the Fishing Fleet
    signed 'HW Mesdag' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    27 x 34½ in. (68.6 x 87.6 cm.)

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    At the end of the 19th Century, Mesdag was well established in both the Dutch and the international art world. However, at the beginning of his career he had yet to discover the subject matter that would transform the perceptions of him by his peers from banker with a brush to one of the leading artists of the Hague School movement.

    Born in Groningen in the North of Holland in 1831 as the son of a successful stockbroker and banker, Hendrik Willem Mesdag grew up in affluent surroundings. His parents encouraged his artistic interest, although they never intended him to pursue a career in art. In 1851 he joined his father's firm and in 1856 married Sientje van Houten, a girl from a local patrician family. It was both her interest in the arts, as well as a substantial fortune which she inherited in 1866, that allowed her husband to devote himself fully to painting. In the summer of 1866 Mesdag and his wife traveled to Oosterbeek, a popular artist colony at that time. There he met and was influenced by artists such as Johannes Bilders and Willem Roelofs. That the autumn of that year, he traveled to Brussels where Roelofs had his studio. During that period he received his first real art instruction from both Willem Roelofs and his own cousin Lawrence Alma Tadema. Still searching for an artistic vocabulary to call his own, Mesdag painted mostly well-executed oils of the landscape around Brussels and detailed studies of his garden.

    In the summer of 1868 he traveled north with his wife Sientje to the German island of Norderney where he became fascinated and inspired by the sea. Here he embarked on a series of studies which he later, upon return to his studio in Brussels, translated into a number of highly praised and well-received canvases.

    Mesdag had found the subject matter which would turn out to be pivotal in his oeuvre and he was determined to settle near the sea in order to be able to observe the hard-working fishermen on a daily basis. He moved from Brussels to The Hague, where he not only purchased a house in the center of the city but also acquired a room conveniently located along the beach of Scheveningen. This would transform his later artistic development.

    The international career of Hendrik Willem Mesdag began with his participation in the Paris Salon in 1870 with two paintings: Les Brisants de la Mer du Nord and Une journée d'hiver Scheveningen. He received the gold medal for Les Brisants de la mer du Nord and one of the jury members, Charles Chaplin, was so impressed by it that he bought it for 2500 francs. A period of great recognition began.

    The present lot depicts numerous boats or bomschuiten near the coast. As the sun sets, the fisher fleet returns to the beach. The refined balance of the composition combined with an undeniable luminosity make the present lot a very fine example of Mesdag's fluid impressionist style and a testament to his primary interest of the effect of light on water and the sky.

    Special Notice

    No sales tax is due on the purchase price of this lot if it is picked up or delivered in the State of New York.


    Daniel Catlin and Justina G. Catlin, St. Louis, Missouri, 1917.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Sold to Benefit the Acquisition Fund of the Saint Louis Art Museum


    Daniel Catlin Memorial Collection of Paintings, Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 1917, vol. 3, April edition, pp. 1, 6 (illustrated).
    Recent Accessions, Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 1917, vol. 3, April edition, p. 12 (illustrated).
    City Art Museum of St. Louis, Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings With Biographical Data and Descriptive Notes, City Art Museum of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 1918, no. M28, p. 108.
    City Art Museum Catalogue of Paintings, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 1924, 3rd edition, no. M28, p. 59.
    Two Sides of the Medal: From Gerome to Gauguin,The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, 1954, no. 32, pp. 22, 28
    Peter C. Sutton, Dutch Art in America, The Netherlands-American Amity Trust Inc., Grand Rapids, 1986, p. 266.


    St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, Summer Loan Exhibition 1922: Paintings of the Dutch School Owned in St. Louis, 1922, no. 45.