About The Coffee Sorters

Coffee sorters were women who sifted imported coffee beans from Indonesia, removing the bad beans. Their sober, hardworking existence is accentuated by the drab and subdued colour palette. The women, seated in parallel lines at long tables, all look alike as if they have no personal identity and are simply living machines.


  • Title: The Coffee Sorters
  • Creator: Isaac Israëls
  • Date Created: 1886
  • Physical Dimensions: wxh 100 x 76 cm
  • Artist Information: Isaac Israëls was the son of Jozef Israëls, one of the masters of the Hague School. He studied at the art academy in The Hague from 1878 to 1880. Mesdag, the artist and collector, bought a work by Israëls in 1881, when he was 16, before it was even completed. In 1886, Israëls moved to Amsterdam, where he was to share a studio with George Breitner. Israëls produced many paintings about street life and places of entertainment such as cafés and dance-halls. Just like the French impressionists, he captured light and movement with a sketch-like technique and a colourful palette. Israëls travelled frequently, and worked in many places including Paris and London. In 1921 he made a trip to what was then Dutch Indonesia. He returned to the Netherlands in 1923 and settled in The Hague.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Donation: G.L.M. van Es 1935
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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