This past weekend a new and exciting exhibition opened at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. For the very first time all 13 of George Hendrik Breitner's so called Kimono Girls are on view in the same room. By displaying all the Girl in a Kimono works together, combined with the preliminary studies in the form of drawings, sketches and photographs, as well as Breitner's easel and paint box, the exhibition gives an impression of the way in which the painter went about his work in his studio on the Lauriergracht in Amsterdam.
His favourite model in these series is a young girl named Geesje Kwak and from entries in his sketchbook and photos, we know that it was Geesje who posed for the painter between the ages of 16 and 18. Photographs such as the one below show Breitner's way of work: by taking pictures of his models and the scenes he wished to paint, he was able to capture every day life on the streets of Amsterdam, before painting them in his studio.
Breitner (1857-1923) spent some time in Paris in 1884, where Japonism dominated the fashion scene and Breitner was fascinated by Japanese art. During that time, Japanese evenings were also held in the Netherlands and Japanese prints were exhibited, which were a big source of inspiration to Breitner. The current exhibition shows 2 stunning 19th century kimono's similar to the ones in the paintings, but unfortunately the red, blue and white ones owned by Breitner himself have been lost in the past.
The delicate paintings and personal photographs and objects take us back to the moment Breitner saw Geesje: you almost feel like an intruder watching these Kimono Girls change clothes, sleep and put on their jewellery. Nevertheless, do not miss this great opportunity to see all the paintings together, because some of them are part of private collections and you may not be able to get this close again!
Definitely a VanGoghle Must See, February 20 until May 22 2016 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.