Isaac Israëls, together with George Hendrik Breitner, was the leading representative of the group of Amsterdam Impressionists. He painted fragments of life he chanced across in the capital’s shopping streets, coffee houses and café-chantants, where busy urban living was played out. In a few apt charcoal lines or quick, spontaneous brushstrokes, with subtle color accents, he captured everything he saw.
Israëls often spent his summers with his father in the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen near The Hague. Guests included Édouard Manet and Max Liebermann. Interested by the changing light of sun and sea, he painted many colourful seaside scenes.
Towards the end of the century, Israëls was introduced by his childhood friend and portrait painter Thérèse Schwartze to the Amsterdam fashion house Hirsch & Cie (nl)at the Leidseplein. Israëls portrayed the whole range of the world of haute couture, from seamstress to wealthy client, gaining access even to the fitting-rooms.
Israëls moved to Paris in 1904, establishing his studio near Montmartre and just yards away from the studio of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec whom he admired, as he also did Edgar Degas. As in Amsterdam, he painted the Parisian specific motifs: the public parks, cafes, cabarets and bistros, as well as such subjects as fairgrounds and circus acrobats. Likewise he sought out the fashion houses Paquin and Drecoll to continue his studies of the world of fashion.
He returned to Holland for the duration of the First World War, living alternately in The Hague, Amsterdam and Scheveningen, where he worked primarily as a portrait painter. Amongst his sitters was Magaretha Gertrud Zelle, better known as Mata Hari, executed as a spy in France in 1917.
Following the war, Israëls visited Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and London. He spent the years 1921 to 1922 travelling in India and the Dutch East Indies, sketching and painting the vibrant life of South East Asia. On his return, he settled in The Hague where he remained for the rest of his life, nevertheless making regular trips abroad to London, Italy and the French Riviera.
This painting shows us a lady in Paris standing on the balcony of her suite at Hotel Continental with the Place Vendôme in the background. Hotel Continental, now known as the Westin Paris – Vendôme was built in 1878 and designed to be the most comfortable and luxurious property of its kind. Inaugurated in 1878 to welcome visitors to the World Fair, the hotel Continental, future Westin Paris, has been from the beginning a favorite Parisian meeting place, receiving numerous members of royalty and celebrities, like Princess Grace of Monaco and the Dalai Lama.
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