Do you know Hendrik Mesdag? I now do: I visited the Mesdag collection in Den Haag (the Hague) the 7th of March. I had the privilege to watch his work and learn about his life in a wonderful building. The building used to be the residential building of mr. and mrs. Mesdag. It was a nice visit, which I would like to share with you.
The first thing I will discuss in this review is the accessability by public transport. I went there with my friend Janine, and there’s no secret that she loves to walk. I like to walk too sometimes, especially if this give me the opportunity to see the city and talk to my friend. So, however the museum was pretty good reachable by public transport (the tram stop is about 230 metres away) we walked from the train station to the museum. Which also was very doable.
Let’s talk about the crowd. What crowd? We practically were the only ones in the museum. I was curious on why there were not more people there. But the museum has to compete with several other, very good museums in Den Haag, such as the Escher museum and the gemeentemuseum. Most people apparently prefer to visit the other museums, which also are very good, but it is a shame this museum seems a bit forgotten by the crowd.
Interesting works of art
The first picture I would like to share with you is a portrait of mrs. Sientje Mesdag. It is created by Jozef Israëls. He also made a portrait of mr. Mesdag. Jozef Israëls was a good friend of mr. Hendrik Willem Mesdag. Both painters painted in the same style. It is called the ‘Haagse school’, because both Mesdag and Israëls lived in den Haag. Mesdag was not only a painter, he too was a collector. The Mesdag collection portaits most of the collection of the mr. and mrs. Mesdag, like this portrait made by their best friend.
Mrs. Mesdag was getting a bit older at the moment the portrait was made. The portrait of mr. Mesdag was made more earlier, therefore the two portraits seemingly not belong together. I really like the style, in which the portrait is made. It is the style of the ‘Haagse school’. With the loose strokes and the clair obscur, it reminds me very much of Rembrandt’s style.
Almost every painting in the Mesdag collection is created in this style of painting. The main difference between Rembrandt and the style of the ‘Haagse school’, I think, is the subject: Rembrandt mostly painted portraits, while the painters in the ‘Haagse school’ usually painted landscapes and animals. There are a few paintings I would like to discuss here, because they caught my eye. For example: I had to pause when I saw this painting from Israëls; where he portraits a man, sitting next to his wife’s deathbed. The painting is called ‘alone’, and is unusual for the Mesdag collection, because of the subject. This is the only painting in the collection that obviously tells you a story. A sad story.
The most paintings I liked were the paintings of animals, like for example this painting by Maris, of two calves. The highlight in the eyes of the calves is minimalistic, but great; just right. I like the interaction between the calves. It is not a usual position to portrait an animal, because the moment caught here; probably was very short. The calves are portraited vividly, alive. You can imagine them running away every second; playing with each other. Maris did a great job on this piece.
At the end of our tour through the museum, we got to see a room full of paintings from Antonio Mancini. He neither belongs to the ‘Haagse’ or the ‘Barbizon school’; the style all of the other paintings in the collection do belong to. Mancini is Italian and I liked the Mancini paintings because they were different from the rest. Mancini used the impasto technique; adding different textures to the paint. In this painting you can see the thick layers of paint very well. This painting also is a great example on how realistic his paintings are. One remarkable thing on the Mancini paintings was that some of them showed a sort of grid he used during painting. I’ve never seen that at paintings from any other artist.
Great for learning
I learned about the ‘Haagse school’ and the ‘Barbizon school’. Before I visited the museum I never had heard from the Barbizon school; an art style which originated in France and especially was inspired by nature and the everyday image of the landscape. The painters in the Barbizon school liked to paint out in the field. The loose brush strokes, used in this style, are very much like the ‘Haagse school’, so no wonder Mesdag liked this style a lot. He purchased a great amount of paintings in this style. If you want to see more paintings in this style, you’ll have to go to France. Mesdag was the only big collector of these paintings, living outside of France.
The collection was on paintings, who seemingly all were painted in the same style. If you like the style very much, you will be entertained, just by walking through the rooms. Next to the paintings, a wonderful building, and a beautiful garden, the museum doesn’t have much else to offer.
I got inspired
I mostly got inspired by the paintings of animals. I learned that Hendrik Willem Mesdag loved one painting in particular: a painting of a sheep. The painting hang in his art workshop and he greeted it every morning before getting to work. I don’t have a picture of that particular painting, but I did take pictures of other paintings of sheep. It made me want to paint sheep too.
Accessible for the disabled
The museum is very well accessible for the disabled. Although the museum has multiple levels; there’s an elevator, and because the museum is not visited by crowds, you’ll be able to see everything, even in wheelchair.
I actually didn’t talk much to the staff, but when we arrived approximately an hour before opening, they didn’t panic or hastily sent us away. They just calmly told us they would open within an hour. So we went for a tea in a tearoom close to the museum, and came back an hour later.
Take the kids with you!
I honestly don’t know wether the museum has anything special for kids. I didn’t see anything like it on the website or in the museum. They could have made a nice treasure hunt or something. (Or hire me; I could create one! I used to do that a lot at the Westfries museum in Hoorn, as you can read here,..) But I don’t think they invested any time or money in entertaining children in this museum. Such a shame!
But, on the other hand; maybe kids are a bit spoiled by all the entertainment they are given, all the time. Maybe the art should speak for itself; for once. It would be good to take your child to a museum like this, and talk with them about the artworks. Just talk about what you both see in the paintings, and what you like about the paintings. Select your favorite painting and let the child explain why this painting is better than all the rest. Kids can have fun in a museum, without any scavenger hunt. Just invest some time in a conversation, and I bet you’ll have a very valuable experience when you take your child to this museum.
Just take one though,.. don’t take more than one child with you.