Salon de Paris

‘(...) 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 seriously.

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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