Israels is recognized as one of the leading artists of the Amsterdam Impressionist movement. His swiftly rendered compositions form a unique contribution to the development of the art of his day, as being truly modern in subject matter and style. Israels reveals himself as a sharp observer of human pose and expression, able to capture the essence of a quickly passing moment in a few sweeps of his virtuous brush or pen. The only son of the famous painter Jozef Israels (1824-1911), Isaac's talent for drawing was recognized from a young age. Born in Amsterdam in 1872 he moved with his family to The Hague, where his father became one of the leading figures among the painters of The Hague School. After having received his first training from his father, Isaac followed courses at the academy in The Hague in 1877-78. Here he met George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923), who was his classmate. Dissatisfied with the cultural climate in The Hague, both artists moved to Amsterdam in 1886, where they soon became associated with the literary movement of the Tachtigers. With Breitner, he founded the so-called Amsterdam School of Impressionism, which replaced the rural motifs of The Hague School painting by motifs from city life.
Following the death of his father, Isaac Israels returned to The Hague in 1911. Here he settled in his ancestral home at the Koninginnegracht. In 1913-14 he lived in London and then finally in 1917 embarked on the refurbishment of his father's studio at the Laan van Roos en Doorn to adapt it to his own taste and style. The new studio was the start of one of the most fruitful and productive periods in the artist's career, bringing forth some of the best works in his oeuvre. Just before moving into his late father's studio in 1917, Isaac Israels was given two paintings on loan from Vincent van Gogh by Jo van Gogh-Bonger (1862-1925), sister-in-law of Van Gogh and a good friend of Israels. The two paintings Sunflowers and The Yellow house in Arles (both in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv.nos F 458, F 464) served as an important source of inspiration to Isaac as he longed to study the intense colours used by Vincent, who he greatly admired. Isaac clearly did not intend to make a copy of the painting but incorporated the work in his paintings in his own unique style where, with just a few effective sweeps of the brush, he brilliantly captures the sunflowers.
The present lot depicts an elegant lady seated in front of Van Gogh's world-famous Sunflowers and belongs to a series of paintings in which he incorporated this masterpiece, some of them are now in Museum collections (Woman reading before Sunflowers and Homage to Van Gogh (blue blouse), both in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and Women en profil in front of Van Gogh's Sunflowers in the Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle).
An elegant lady posing before the sunflowers of Vincent van Gogh was acquired by the Dutch Jewish art collector Willem Wolff Beffie (1880-1950) and has never been seen in public before. Beffie started collecting contemporary paintings in the early 20th century and by 1921 he owned over 500 paintings and drawings. Personally acquainted with Kandinsky (1866-1944), Jawlensky (1864-1941) and Le Fauconnier (1881-1946), Beffie was a passionate collector of German and Russian Expressionist art and he assembled a world-class international collection in Amsterdam, including works by artists such as Paul Klee (1879-1940), Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968), Henri Le Fauconnier (1881-1946), Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Leo Gestel (1881-1941) and Jan Sluijters (1881-1957). Many paintings formerly in his collection now enrich the holdings of major museums globally including the Guggenheim in New York, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum and New York's Museum of Modern Art.