Jozef Israëls (27 January 1824 – 12 August 1911) was a Dutch painter, best known as a painter of scenes of peasant life. He was a leading member of the group of landscape painters referred to as the ‘Hague School’. During his lifetime, Israëls was the most respected Dutch artist of the second half of the nineteenth century, earning the nickname ‘the Dutch Millet’.
He was born in Groningen, of Jewish parents. His father, Hartog Abraham Israëls, intended for him to be a businessman, and it was only after a determined struggle that he was allowed to embark on an artistic career. He studied initially from 1835 to 1842 at the Minerva Academy in his home town Groningen.
He continued his studies subsequently in Amsterdam, studying at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Amsterdam. From September 1845 until May 1847 he was in Paris, working in the history painter Picot's studio and taking classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under James Pradier, Horace Vernet and Paul Delaroche. He returned to Amsterdam in September 1845 where he resumed his studies at the Academy until May 1847. Israëls remained in Amsterdam until 1870, when he moved to The Hague and became a leading member of the Hague School of landscape painters.
Despite his training, Israëls did not devote his career to painting historical scenes. While recuperating from an illness at the Dutch fishing village of Zandvoort, he was appalled by the tragic lot of the fishermen and their families. His sober, restrained paintings depicting life in the fishing village earned him international fame. Critics compared his impasto brushwork, his warm colours and his use of chiaroscuro with the work of Rembrandt. Israëls taught numerous pupils, among them his son Isaac.
In later years his paintings were influenced by the works of Rembrandt, generally treated in broad masses of light and shade, which give prominence to the principal subject without any neglect of detail.
When in 1904 Jozef Israëls celebrated his 80 birthday, he received an exclusive portfolio of 50 selected works, presented as high quality photogravures, printed by Meissenbach & Riffarth, Berlin. Paper was produced especially for this publication and watermarked as "Jozef Israëls/ Uitgave van Gebrs. E & M Cohen/ Van Gelder Zonen".
The Portrait Painting Gallery in Barga shows from Easter 2023, eight selected works from this original portfolio as part of the ‘Everyday Life - Dutch domesticity around 1900’ exhibition. Other works to be seen on this exhibition are seven, most of them signed by hand, etchings of the Austrian artist Ferdinand Schmutzer.