Breitner was born in Rotterdam and first moved to The Hague after being accepted at the Academy in 1876. In The Hague he came into contact with many of the leading artists of The Hague School. He joined Pulchri Studio in 1880 and worked together with Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915) and his wife Sientje Mesdag-van Houten (1834-1909) on the Panorama Mesdag in The Hague. Breitner's ideas and pictorial interest discerned themselves from his Hague School contemporaries. The author W. Jos de Gruyter states that some of Breitner's work is an introduction to expressionism. He specifically refers to the painting 'Moonlight' from 1885 [fig. 1], which was also well appreciated by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). This picture sold at Christie's Amsterdam in 1989 to the Musee d' Orsay in Paris and is said to have impressed Van Gogh with its originality in both composition and colour scheme.
In 1881 Vincent van Gogh had moved to The Hague. Breitner and Van Gogh met when Theophile de Bock (1851-1904) took Vincent to see the Panorama Mesdag. They set out together drawing the broad range of subjects that The Hague had to offer. Especially Van Gogh's choice of subjectmatter around that time clearly shows Breitner's influence. After some time there a rift seems to have developed between the two artists. However Van Gogh remained appreciative of Breitner. In July 1883 he writes to his brother Theo: 'Breitner, who was totally unexpected because he seemed to have broken contact completely at one time, turned up yesterday. I was pleased, because - when I first moved here - it used to be very agreeable going out with him. I don't mean going out into the country but going out to look for characters and enjoyable experiences in the city itself. There isn't another person here in The Hague with whom I have ever done this, most find the city ugly and give everything in it a miss.'
The present painting by Breitner epitomizes his much quoted intention to become 'le peintre du peuple'. The girls that populate Breitners paintings are often maids or factory-workers. He was interested in the: 'Jordaanse type dat voor ieder wellicht niet even aantrekkelijk is, maar waarvan het eigendommelijk karakter toch door niemand zal ontkend worden.' (see: interview with H.L. Berckenhoff, Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant, 16 November 1890).
It is precisely the coarse quality of the models used in this painting that make these girls so interesting. They represent the increasing industrialization that was changing the shape of Amsterdam and its street-life. Breitner allows for a rich contrast between the clothing of the young women and the snowy environment in which they stand. A bright red is set next to different hues of blue and yellow. Their faces are built up from a large number of thick flesh tones which are set against an abstracted and achromatic background giving the work an expressionistic character.
The present lot is in immaculate condition and has been in the same family for numerous generations. It's appearance on the art market is a special event indeed.