When Breitner moved into his new studio at the first floor of the Lauriersgracht 8 in 1894, he immediately started with a series of works inspired by this new neighbourhood 'de Jordaan' in Amsterdam. From the early nineties up to 1899 - when he moved again to a new studio on the Prinseneiland - he made numerous photographs, sketches and paintings of this lively folk area in Amsterdam. It was the beauty of the old Amsterdam houses in combination with the lively colourful figures that made this bustling part of the city his favourites. The streets around the Lauriergracht, like the Westermarkt, the Lindengracht and the Looiersgracht he chose for numerous photographs, sketches and paintings.
The city fascinated Breitner with its promise of untold opportunities to study subjects from everyday life. He took to the streets armed with a sketchbook and camera to record construction workers and labourers, glimpses of maidservants, and playing children. Breitner was rapt with his new home at the Lauriergracht and wrote on 11 May 1893 to his friend H.J. van der Weele: ''t is allerheerlijkst voor me, dat ik zoo midden in Amsterdam woon. In een oogenblik kun je ergens gaan eten en weer thuis zijn. Je hoeft nooit op de tram te gaan staan. 't is niet verder dan een minuut of zeven van de Dam, dat is voor mij zoo ongewoon en zoo prettig. Ik loop er heen, dag in en uit'. (see: J.F. Heijbroek, Erik Schmitz, George Hendrik Breitner in Amsterdam, Bussum, 2014, p. 97.) By the turn of the century Breitner was at the peak of his career. He had received numerous honours and took pride of place in many exhibitions. In 1895 he was made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau and in the Order of Leopold. His work in the closing years of the 19th Century became increasingly challenging and confrontational, while his use of colour and contrast was bold and self-assured. Breitner was the master of the impression. He captured what he saw with vigorous brushstrokes: a fleeting moment, a fragment in time. Conveying an impression was painting at its purest, the eye does the rest. Breitner was a consummate master in seizing atmosphere and mood as can be seen in the present lot.
A preliminary chalk sketch of the present composition is currently in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum and is annotated with 'Looyersstraat' and a photograph by the hand of the artist made circa 1895, taken from the same viewpoint shows he used this sketch and photographs as the basis for the present work (see fig.1). It is assumed that Breitner made the present work several years later based on material he made earlier in his career. Depicted is the Oude Looiersstraat with nos. 63-77 on the left hand side and nos. 58 and higher up at the right hand side. The street in the background is the Tweede Looiersdwarsstraat nos. 16-24. Breitner's first photographs date from 1889. He developed his photos himself and certainly did not intend to exhibit them as works of art, they were just one part of his preparations. Together with his pencil sketches they formed the basis for his compositions. His photographs served as an aid to painting and were never intended to be works of art in themselves. For Breitner, who was known to be impatient with his work and had trouble with figure drawing, it was a wonderful solution to photograph any possible subject for his art.
Please compare to a similar work titled Touwtje springende kinderen with the same size in the former Collection of Hendrikus Egbertus ten Cate, Almelo/De Lutte (Archives of the RKD, The Hague).
We would like to thank Mr. Freek Heybroek for his kind assistance in cataloguing the present lot.