‘(...) The painter himself explained his works to me.
The last two, which had just been completed, showed the departure
of the fishing boats in the early morning, and a fellow who
had just waded quickly through the water; and then the return
of the boats at sundown, when they had a full load of herring
on board and therefore lay much deeper in the water.
These canvasses were again intended for Paris. "Because,"
said Mr. Mesdag, "that exhibition is still the most important
and my best works have been exhibited there since ’69.
They show together the progress of my work, and so therefore
I will remain loyal to it". (…)’
About a year ago, the Mesdag Documentation Society (MDS)
acquired a letter written by Mesdag
at an auction, in which Mesdag thanked Mr Brusse, author of
the quoted article above from the NRC newspaper of 1906, and
also improved on and explained several points. This letter
showed that Mesdag took his comments in the interview very
Mesdag’s own words in 1906 form the direct stimulus
to study his contribution to the Parisian Salons further.
The Salons in those days formed a high point in Western art.
Earlier – in 1984 – Jaap W. Brouwer wrote in his
study "Dutch artists and the French Salons 1879-1899",
that the catalogues of the Salons were a treasure trove of
data to which little attention had been paid at that time
(Tableau, June 1984).
Mesdag sent work to the first Salon in 1870 (not in 1869,
as Brusse’s article stated). He exhibited two works
and was awarded a gold medal. Mesdag submitted 110 paintings
in the period 1870-1911; their titles are known. Pictures
of most of the paintings have been located. The catalogues
of the Salons were used for this purpose. It is especially
the research of Nienke Bakker in the library of the Museum
d’Orsay and the Bibliotheque National Richelieu (both
in Paris) that has supplied much material, which was used
to date previously undated and documented work.
The results are included on this web site. The French art
reviews in the journals, of which it can be assumed that Mesdag
was aware and had taken note, are also included. The results
of the new research led to fairly far-reaching changes in
the Catalogue of Works of 1989. The number of documented works
is now more than 1200, after about 10 years of research.
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