Isaac Israels (1865-1934)
Isaac Israels (1865-1934)

De Schermles

Isaac Israels (1865-1934)
De Schermles
signed and dated lower right Isaac Israels/1880
oil on panel
46 x 68 cm
Mr. H.G. Tersteeg, The Hague.
Mrs A.J. Moes-Veth, Amsterdam.
Mr. J.P. Moes, Ontario, 1967.
Anon. Sale, Sotheby's New York, 29 February 1984, lot 62.
A. Wagner, Isaac Israels, Rotterdam, 1967, no 4, p.4, ill.
Zutphen, Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters, April-May 1881, 106.
Amsterdam, Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling, 1883, 107, ill.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Isaac Israels, 1958/1959, 3.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Tentoonstelling Van Gogh en zijn tijdgenoten, 6 September-2 November 1930.

Lot Essay

Isaac Israels painted De Schermles in 1880 at the age of fifteen, only two years after entering The Hague Drawing Academy together with George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923), Floris Verster (1861-1927) and Marius Bauer (1867-1932)
Under influence of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the military genre pervaded late nineteenth century European art with artists such as Jean Baptiste Edouard Detaille (1848-1912) and Alphonse Marie de Neuville (1835-1885) entering military pieces into the Paris Salon. Also Israels' fellow students such as Floris Verster and George Hendrik Breitner incorperated military motives in their early work, the latter being especially renowned for his impressionistic rendering of cavalry charges. (De Gele Rijders, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)
The present lot, the first in a series of at least five military inspired paintings, depicts a group of young recruits in the midst of a fencing lesson at the Alexander Barracks, The Hague.
A year later in 1881, Isaac Israels succesfully debuted at the Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters in The Hague with a very much comparable picture entitled De repetitie van het signaal. It was the above-mentioned picture that was bought by H.W. Mesdag before it's completion and not, as is stated in the exhibition catalogue De Schilders van Tachtig (Amsterdam, 1991, p.181), the picture of the fencing lesson. Israels' favorable reception immediately launched him upon a national and international artistic career. First as a painter of portraits and large-scale military pieces and later as the leading figure of the Amsterdam Impressionists.
Although Israels' early work came into being during the heyday of the Hague School painters, the child prodigy did not blindly adapt their artistic idiom but developed a characteristic style of his own.
In contrast to the atmospheric imagery propagated by the painters of the Hague School, the young artist emphasized the austere quality of his subject-matter.
In the present lot Israels has placed five recruits in line on a wooden boarded floor against a white-washed wall adorned with swords. The lines formed by the above-mentioned motives all converge to one and the same vanishing point, thus creating a great illusion of depth.
De Schermles perfectly illustrates Israels' keen analytical power and his natural talent to solely include essential pictoral details.

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