George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)
George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)

Eenhoornsluis; a view of the Prinsengracht and the Noorderkerk seen from the Eenhoornsluis, Amsterdam

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)
Eenhoornsluis; a view of the Prinsengracht and the Noorderkerk seen from the Eenhoornsluis, Amsterdam
signed 'G.H. Breitner' (lower left)
oil on canvas
100 x 150 cm.
Painted in 1910.
Kunsthandel E.J. van Wisselingh, Amsterdam, 1910, no. S2802 (titled 'Eenhoornsluis')
Acquired from the above by Eppe Roelfs Harkema, Amsterdam, 1910.
Kunsthandel E.J. van Wisselingh, Amsterdam, 1910-1918.
Acquired from the above by Eduard van Dam, Amsterdam, 1918.
By descent from the above to Hennie van Dam-Roozendaal, Amsterdam, 1918.
Eduard van Dam; sale, Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam, 29 October 1929, lot 1.
Acquired at the above sale by Sig and Emmy Menko-van Dam, Enschede (for fl. 9300).
By descent from the above to Karel and Hedda Magnus-Menko, Zeist, 1962.
By descent from the above by the present owner, 1991.
Adriaan Venema, G.H. Breitner; 1857-1923, Bussum, 1981, p. 330, no. 348 (titeld 'De eenhoornsluis').
Amsterdam, Kunsthandel E.J. van Wisselingh & Co., Catalogus der tentoonstelling van schilderijen en aquarellen door G.H. Breitner, September - October 1916, no. 38 (titled 'De eenhoornsluis').

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Lot Essay

The present lot is an outstanding and characteristic example of Amsterdam Impressionism, of which George Hendrik Breitner was one of the pioneers. It depicts two horse drawn carts on a bridge over the Korte Prinsengracht near the Eenhoornsluis in Amsterdam. The Noorderkerk and the Noordermarkt are seen in the background. Breitner painted this exceptional canvas in 1910, when he was at the height of his career and already a respected artist. In 1898 he had moved to a new studio on the Prinseneiland (Elandsgracht), a few hundred meters from the depicted spot, and near the city center. He would chose this location several times. Breitner loved to stroll around the city to make numerous photographs, sketches and paintings of lively spots in the bustling center of Amsterdam. It was the beauty of the old Amsterdam canal houses in combination with the teaming figures and horses on the bridge that struck him and led him to paint the present work. The balanced composition, the size, the bright colouring in combination with the subtle harmony of greyish and brownish tones, and its superb brushwork make the present lot one of his best.

Breitner was a master in recording his immediate impressions with a feverish temperament and translating them into paint. His bold brushstrokes became vivid and direct, and the compositions became more daring and confronting. With a few swift lines he indicated the brown and white coat of the horses. Striking contrasts created by the forms of the stately houses in the background and the lively colourful carts on the bridge make this painting remarkably impressive. It also shows the artist's fascination for using the effects of photography in his art. Several photographs exist of Breitner's hand from the same composition which he used for this painting (fig. 1). Breitner had started to use photography as a tool in his art around 1889. He developed his photos himself and certainly did not intend to exhibit them as works of art; they were just part of his preparations. Breitner did not copy his photos in his paintings in detail. Together with pencil sketches they formed the basis of his compositions. Critics in general have appreciated the surprisingly honest and rough quality of his photographs.

The first owner of the work was Eppe Roelfs Harkema who bought the work at the dealer E.J. van Wisselingh & Co. In 1918 Van Wisselingh sold the painting again, this time to the young Eduard van Dam (1885-1918). Van Dam started collecting paintings from The Hague School, the Amsterdam School and early works by modern artists such as Piet Mondriaan en Jan Sluijters. Within a short period of time he assembled a large collection of contemporary artists. Van Dam unfortunately died young in 1918, due to the influenza pandemic at the time, known as the Spanish Flu. Due to her financial situation Eduard's widow Hennie Van Dam-Roozendaal needed to sell the collection in 1929. The entire collection was offered at auction, where family of Eduard van Dam acquired it. The present appearance on the art market follows a period of almost a century of private ownership in the same family.

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