Meijer de Haan
15 March – 20 June 2010
An introduction to the work of Meijer de Haan (1852-1895), who is known today largely through portraits by his friend Paul Gauguin. No monograph exhibition has been dedicated to this artist, although he was an important figure in Gauguin’s circle in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
Born into a rich Jewish family, Meijer de Haan started his career in his home town of Amsterdam.
His paintings from 1870-1880, mostly unpublished and never shown in France, depict life in Amsterdam’s Jewish community and show Rembrandt’s influence. De Haan’s intimate knowledge of Rembrandt impressed Vincent Van Gogh when de Haan came to Paris in 1888 and stayed with Vincent’s brother, the art dealer Theo van Gogh. The friendship he struck up with Gauguin shortly afterwards radically changed his career and his style.
From April 1889 to October 1890, Meijer de Haan painted in the company of Paul Gauguin and artists such as Sérusier and Filiger, who gathered at Le Pouldu and Pont-Aven in Brittany. His painting applies and develops the principles of Synthetism defended by Bernard and Gauguin from 1888 onwards: simplification, cloisonnism, dark outlines enclosing areas of bright, flat colour to give Brittany a deliberately “primitive” air. Meijer de Haan’s career was short and tragic: a cut in the allowance paid by his family forced him to leave Brittany in 1890. He was unable to follow Paul Gauguin to Tahiti in 1891 and returned to Holland about 1891-1892, where he died prematurely three years later.
Meijer de Haan worked in various genres, with a preference for portraits and still lifes, some painted alongside Gauguin in Brittany. Comparisons will be drawn between the two artists at various points in the chronological and thematic circuit. De Haan also worked with Gauguin on the decoration of a dining room in Marie Henry’s famous inn in Le Pouldu.
These thirty works, mostly shown in France for the first time, shed light on the moving and littleknown destiny of an artist whose paintings are essential for understanding a crucial time – Post- Impressionism – when the avant-garde movements of the late 1880s embarked on the path of radical simplification and pure colour.
Curated by: Jelka Kröger, adviser and curator of the exhibition in Amsterdam; André Cariou,
director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Quimper; Sylvie Patry, curator at the Musée d’Orsay.