©Rapenburg Plaza

Breitner’s Amsterdam – City Archives Amsterdam

  • Location: City Archive, Amsterdam
  • Open: October 10, 2014
  • Exhibition design: MV LevievanderMeer
  • Lighting design, AV technology and installation: Rapenburg Plaza
  • Photography: Jeffrey Steenbergen

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) used his sketchbooks virtually every day to record the initial impressions on which he based his paintings and watercolours. About 120 of them have been preserved. This exhibition is the first to feature a generous selection of these sketches, in addition to other works by the artist.

Amsterdam City Archives and the Rijksmuseum conducted a joint research project on Breitner’s sketchbooks and the role they played in the artist’s life and his work. Thanks to this research, we are now able to follow, step by step, the way in which the artist used sketches and photographs to create his large paintings and vibrant watercolours.

The works displayed at this exhibition also give a fascinating picture of life in Amsterdam around 1900. We can see the horse-drawn trams on Dam Square, servants walking down the canal-side streets, urban development in the old city centre, and the building sites on the outskirts of the city. We can look over Breitner’s shoulder as he records his first impressions in the street, and then we can watch the monumental paintings and watercolours take shape in the studio. Visitors can see the places where Breitner made his sketches and took his photographs, and appreciate the success with which he captured the light and the atmosphere of Amsterdam in his paintings.

The exhibition displays from the collections of the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam City Archives, along with a number of paintings and watercolours -some famous and others almost unknown- from collections including those of the Teylers Museum, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in The Hague, the Kröller-Müller Museum, and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Also included are a number of valuable, virtually unknown works that have kindly been provided on loan by private collectors.