A son of Netherlands most celebrated artist from the Hague School, Jozef Israels, Isaac Israels showed early artistic promise from the tender age of 6 years old. A prodigy as well as a self-taught painter, Isaac eventually developed a style that was not only unique and different from his father’s style, but also had little in common with The Hague School artists at the time.
Under influence of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the military genre pervaded late 19th Century European art with artists such as Jean Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848-1912) entering military pieces into the Paris Salon. A year before the present lot was painted, in 1881, Isaac Israels successfully debuted at the Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters in The Hague with a picture titled The repetition of the signal. Israels’ favourable reception in The Hague, in combination with his artistic debut at the Salon in Paris in 1882, began an illustrious career with his works being sought after nationally and internationally. First as a painter of portraits and large-scale military pieces and later as the leading artist of the Amsterdam Impressionist movement who equalled most of his French contemporaries.
Isaac painted the present lot in 1882 at the age of seventeen, only four years after his enrolment in The Hague Drawing Academy 1878. Depicted is a preliminary study for the Transport of colonial soldiers, dated 1883-84 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo [inv.no 378], oil on canvas, 160 x 300 cm) where a detachment of soldiers walks across the Koningsbrug in Rotterdam, ready to embark on their journey to the Dutch East Indies.
Contrary to the crowded composition in Transport of colonial soldiers, Isaac emphasized in the present study the austere quality of his subject matter and perfectly illustrates his keen analytical power and natural talent to solely include essential pictorial details.