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Isaac Israëls

(1865 Amsterdam – 1934 The Hague)

Two Women Dancing in a Café on Zeedijk. Black chalk. 43.7 x 28 cm.         Circa 1890–94.

This vibrant sketch drawn spontaneously from life belongs to a group of studies the young artist made between 1890 and 1894 while roaming the streets of Amsterdam. In this period Israëls drew motifs he came across in the working-class neighbourhood of De Pijp and the dubious red-light district around Nieuwmarkt and Zeedijk, which was home to numerous taverns, cabarets and brothels. Several studies in chalk and pastel on the same theme have survived. They probably served as preliminary studies for the painting Two Dancing Women at a Fair (see A. Wagner, Isaac Israels, Venlo 1985, p. 44, fig. 36).

Comparable studies of women dancing made by Israëls’ friend and fellow artist, Georg Hendrick Breitner (1857–1923), which were probably inspired by their joint forays through Amsterdam’s demimonde, have also been preserved. Israëls’ and Breitner’s choice of such subjects shows that they fully endorsed Baudelaire’s insistence on modernité and drew inspiration from similar works by contemporary French artists such as Manet, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. Verso with a sketch of two variety theatre performers. From the collection of I.Q. van Regteren Altena, Amsterdam (Lugt 4617).

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