Lot 32
  • 32

GEORGE HENDRIK BREITNER | Work Horses at the Houthaven, Amsterdam

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Work Horses at the Houthaven, Amsterdam
  • signed G H Breitner lower left
  • watercolour, gouache and charcoal on paper
  • 57 by 88cm., 22½ by 34½in.


Jan Herman van Eeghen, Amsterdam (by 1900)
J.C. Carsten-Faber, Amsterdam
Possibly, Gilissen collection (by 1919)
Kunsthandel E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam (by 1946)
Purchased from the above by the family of the present owners on 4 September 1959  


Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae, Tentoonstelling G.H. Breitner, 1901, no. 58 (as Werkpaarden)
Amsterdam, Kunsthandel E.J. van Wisselingh & Co., Schilderijen en aquarellen door G.H. Breitner & aquarellen door J. Bosboom, 1946, no. 12
Amsterdam, Kunsthandel E.J. van Wisselingh & Co., Zomertentoonstelling Hollandsche en Fransche Schilderkunst der 19e Eeuw, 1947, no. 12


Vereeniging tot Bevordering van Beeldende Kunsten (ed.), Verzameling J.H. van Eeghen, Amsterdam, 1900, no. 4, illustrated
A. Pit et al., George Hendrik Breitner: indrukken en biographische aanteekeningen van A. Pit, W. Steenhoff, Jan Veth en Dr. W. Vogelsang en 90 afbeeldingen van zijne werken in photogravure, Amsterdam, 1902, no. 58, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted circa 1897.

The Houthaven, meaning 'lumber port', was built in 1876 for the trade in timber, which came to Amsterdam mainly from Scandinavia and also Africa, Asia and Russia. Together with his 'Girl in a Kimono' series (reunited at the Rijksmuseum in 2016 for the first time), Impressionistic depictions of urban life in Amsterdam define Breitner's work, establishing him as 'le peintre du peuple'.

In the present work, Breitner presents a realist scene of urban labour reminiscent of the novels of Emile Zola. Against a monochromatic background, executed in broad washes of watercolour, the bright white of the foreground horse stands out, while judicious highlights of blue catch the various figures absorbed in their work. The restrained palette gives this large work a photographic dimension, which is no coincidence as Breitner had long considered photography as an integral part of his artistic process (fig. 1). 'I do indeed use photos. It is impossible to make such things without them. How else am I expected to depict a street in Amsterdam. I scribble in my sketchbook, a study from a window if possible. A sketch for selected details, but the choice, the composition is mine' (the artist, to Petrus Christiaan Eilers of the dealer Van Wisselingh)

By 1901 Breitner was at the height of his fame. In that year he was the subject of a one-man-show at the artists' society Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, a rare accolade for a living artist, where the present work was exhibited.