The present work powerfully evokes the warmth of the setting sun over the North Sea through a golden palette. While the viewer is presumably standing on the beach, the lack of shoreline along the lower edge takes the eye directly out to sea, while the wide-angle view, central sun and radiant light give the work an immersive appeal. Renowned for depicting the vicissitudes of life at sea in all weathers, Mesdag is here at his most lyrical, in a work of deep peace and harmony.
Hendrik Willem Mesdag was a leading artist of the Hague School, a movement that dominated Dutch painting in the late 19th century. Born into a Groningen family, Mesdag was initially destined for a career as a banker like his father. Instead an inheritance gave him financial independence and, at the age of 35, painting became Mesdag's focus. Turning to his cousin Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema for advice, Mesdag took lessons with Willem Roelofs in Brussels, the first Dutch artist regularly to visit the artists' colony at Barbizon. Breaking with the minutely detailed seascapes of the Romantic School, Mesdag's plein air realism broke new ground in Dutch art.
In May 1869 Mesdag moved to The Hague, making the beach at nearby Scheveningen his subject. International success soon followed, as he received a gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1870 for Breakers in the North Sea (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). In 1881 Mesdag painted his 120m-long panoramic view from the Seinpostduin ('Signal box dune') in Scheveningen in four months, assisted by various artists including George Hendrik Breitner (lot 33), Bernardus Johannes Blommers, Théophile de Bock, and his wife Berthe. The panorama remains visible to the public on the Zeestraat in The Hague, the same location where it was painted.
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