From the museum website, 28 September 2009
This autumn, the Jewish Historical Museum will be mounting the first ever retrospective exhibition devoted to the nineteenth-century painter Meijer de Haan (1852-1895). De Haan was a close friend of Vincent van Gogh’s younger brother Theo and collaborated with Paul Gauguin, but he himself never became well known. The forthcoming exhibition seeks to change this situation. After it closes in Amsterdam it will be shown at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and in the Musée des Beaux Arts Quimper, Brittany, entitled ‘Le maître caché, Meijer de Haan’.
For the first time in 125 years, De Haan’s work will be brought together in one place. His Amsterdam period and his time in Brittany, where he worked with Gauguin, will both receive ample attention. Besides De Haan’s paintings and a few by Gauguin, the exhibition will also feature work by De Haan’s pupils, including Joseph Jacob Isaacson, Louis Hartz and Baruch Lopes de Leao Laguna. The exhibits will be drawn from private collections and museums worldwide.
The exhibition sheds light on the role of Dutch Jewish artists in the latter half of the nineteenth century from a surprising angle. The portraits and genre paintings produced in Meijer de Haan’s Amsterdam period were clearly influenced by the Zeitgeist as well as his Jewish background. They display a marked contrast with the later work dating from his time in Brittany, which is related to work by famous contemporaries such as Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and Paul Sérusier. The unexpected contrast in style, light and colour in these two crucial periods will serve as the show’s guiding principle.
Born into a conservative milieu in the heart of Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter, De Haan elected to become an artist as a very young man. His earliest work dates from his apprenticeship with P.F. Greive and his subsequent period of study at the National Academy of Art in 1874. Between 1878 and 1888, De Haan had a studio on the premises of his family’s business, De Haan bread and matzo bakery on Valkenburgerstraat, where he taught and supervised a number of pupils.
Meijer de Haan’s abrupt departure from Amsterdam in 1888 precipitated a complete revolution in his artist and personal life. After a few months in Paris, where he stayed with Theo van Gogh and familiarised himself with the innovative art movements of his day, he moved to Brittany. In the eighteen months that he worked in and around the fishing village of Le Pouldu, working primarily with Gauguin, he developed from a Rembrandtesque, academic painter into a devotee of Gauguin’s bright, colourful palette, while preserving his own individual style.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated monograph, to be published in English and French.