Jozef Israels Dutch, 1824-1911
- Jozef Israels
The first step ('Kleine Jan' )
- signed l.r.
- oil on canvas
- 90 by 127 cm.
Amsterdam, Tentoonstelling van werken van Levende Meesters, September 1860 (titled 'Kleine Jan / De eerste stap')
Paris, Salon, May-June 1861, no. 1597 (titled 'Petit Jean')
De Kinderen der Zee, 1861, with poems of Nicolaas Beets and engravings by J.H. Rennefeld (after paintings of Israels)
D. Dekkers, Een succesvol schilder van het vissersgenre, Leiden 1994, illustration 31-A
D. Dekkers a.o., Jozef Israels 1824-1911, Zwolle 1999, p. 371
Jozef Israels acquired his greatest fame with realistic depictions of the lives of the fishermen and their families. The fishing genre aroused his interest in 1855, when he stayed in the fishing village of Zandvoort. Israels discovered that the harsh and simple life of the fishermen held far more meaning to him than the elevated historical and biblical scenes he had painted up till then. Another factor which contributed to a change of ideas was his visit to Barbizon in the early fifties, where the simple life of the peasants caught his attention. Although he didn't keep close contacts with the group of painters then living in Barbizon, it is hardly coincidental that Israels' realism closely resembles that of Jean François Millet in style and sentiment.
Israels' pictures of farmers and fishermen earned him great fame. The humble scenes of simple day to day life were greeted with great enthusiasm by progressive as well as conservative critics. Thoré-Bürger, reviewing the Paris World Fair of 1867, called Israels one of the most talented painters of his time, praising his quest for 'truth' and 'naturalness'. Almost unanimously, Israels was labelled the leading spirit of a new movement in Dutch painting, which came to be known as the 'Hague School'. His contemplative approach and humble subjects also appealed to contemporaries like Vincent van Gogh, a strong admirer of Israels' work.
The present lot depicts a fisherman greeting his child. It was officially titled in Dutch 'De kleine Jan' ('The little Jan'). This impressive painting dates from 1860. A year later, in 1861, it was illustrated in the book Kinderen der Zee ('Children of the sea'). Ever since then, the whereabouts of this famous painting remained unknown. It was rediscovered recently in a foreign private collection.
The painting was exhibited for the first time in 1860 in Amsterdam, at the yearly exhibition of Living Masters, with an asking price of Dfl. 1.400,-
The painting can be compared to a smaller (39 x 49 cm.) more sketchy version of the same subject, sold in these rooms on 15 April 1975, lot 84-A (illustrated).