Set on a bridge over the canal, Girls on a Bridge in Batavia is suffused in a light, airy atmosphere that impresses the effervescence of the tropical climate. Spurred by an innate Impressionist impulse, Israels renders the sunny scene in his signature series of short, loosened brushwork, testifying to the efficacy the maestro operated at. The ephemera of the fleeting scene is captured in rapid, exacting detail, testifying to the painter’s skillful familiarity with his brush and color. While Javanese dance and music captured Israels' imagination even before he travelled to the East, the opportunity to observe street life in Java was a revelation. With astonishing use of colour, here Israels depicts two women crossing a bridge in old Batavia (Jakarta). The setting appears to be the
Two Javanese girls walk across the bridge, their heads cast downwards against the sweltering sun, accompanied by a man walking opposite them. Israels adorns them in pastel accents of pink and yellow ochre, their bright attire inundating the painting with an incandescence that typifies his cheerful, radiant opus. Their bodies are bathed in a luminous yellow light, rendered in varying tonalities that attests to Israels’ acute sensitivity towards the delicate subtleties of light. The sunlight eventually recedes into the darkened shadows of deepened blue, instilling the scene with dimensionality and perspective. Composed with a limited depth of field, the girls take up majority of the foreground, drawing their pensive figures closer to the viewer. The ingenuity of Israels’ painterly instinct constructs an entirely immersive experience for the viewer, almost as if they were standing at the bridge themselves. The elusive nature of the piece expresses Israels’ desire to replicate aspects of the scenery, rather than observing its structural integrity. The resulting effect is a captivating reproduction of an idyllic reality submerged in generous light.
An oeuvre composed of illusory, indistinct brushwork, Isaac Israels breathed a fresh air of spontaneity into his sunlit scenes. Girls on a Bridge in Batavia is one of the exceptional bodies of work produced during Israels’ brief time in Java, replicating the effulgent sunlight of the Javanese island and its inhabitants with an expert proficiency.
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