Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Art Review - "The Red Kimono" by George Hendrik Breitner

This piece from the Stedelijk Museum is one of a series of 14 works that Dutch artist George Hendrik Breitner painted for his "Girl In Kimono" series from 1893 to 1896. The model is sixteen-year-old Geesje Kwak, who posed for almost all of the compositions in either a red, white or gray kimono.

It's a beautiful painting, striking in its use of rich reds and luscious overlapping patterns. The graphic design of these Japanese fabrics clearly fascinated the artist.

Today the painting is considered an icon of "Japonisme," the influence of Japanese art on western art following the forced reopening of trade with Japan in 1858. In its day, the series was not as popular as the artist's landscape work, created both en plein air and through the use of reference photos, which Breitner was already known for. You can view some of these works, which I wrote about in a previous #MuseumTourTuesday post, here:

I find the change in the critical acceptance of these works interesting. While Breitner's landscapes document the contemporary conditions of the streets and harbors of Amsterdam through direct observation, the kimono series is far more trendy and staged. At the time, the paintings may have been seen as a sort of pop culture response, whereas today they are more of a historical record of the influence of Japanese culture on European painting.

"The Red Kimono" • George Hendrik Breitner • Oil on Canvas
• 77 x 101.5cm  • 1894

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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