In 1879 Mesdag first made contact with a group of Belgian entrepreneurs
who wanted to lay the foundations for a panorama under the name
Society Anonyme du Panorama Maritime de la Haye. The
panorama was a much-loved visual attraction in this period, when
there was no cinema and television to provide information and entertainment.
The Society approached Mesdag to create a painting without
borders, as panoramas were sometimes called at that time.
Mesdag would receive a substantial fee and he had the right to select
his own subject and collaborators. Mesdag regarded this offer as
the unique opportunity to paint the greatest sea piece he would
ever create and also to preserve Scheveningen for posterity.
The Panorama Mesdag
Mesdag started his vast project on 28 March, 1881. Many preparatory
sketches and studies have been preserved. In two sketchbooks containing
the many sketches made each day, we see the Panorama evolving. Topographically
the sketches are quite precise and this exactness has been kept
in the final result of the Panorama. On 1 August 1881 the Panorama
Maritime was opened to the public. The total surface of the canvas
is 1600 m2
Mesdag's collaborators were his wife Sientje, Théophile de
Bock and twenty-three-year-old George Hendrik Breitner, who was
still a pupil of The Hague Academy and was honored by this commission.
5 Bernard blommers also contributed to a limited extent.
In Mesdag's day the Zeestraat was a beautiful approach to Scheveningen
from an important quarter of town; the Willemspark, situated near
the Panorama also had its own elegance. The entrance to the dome-shaped
Panorama began in the Zeestraat through a sandy path with privet
hedges. The Panorama, like many of its kind, went bankrupt in 1886.
This was an unacceptable situation for Mesdag. He purchased the
building and the canvas and kept the Panorama open at a considerable
loss. Nowadays the Panorama is still a popular place to visit and
one of the largest tourist attractions in The Hague.
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