At the start of his career, Jozef Israëls showed a clear commitment to the then fashionable genre of history painting. His choice of training, teachers and enthusiasms all indicate this. In 1855, however, he changed direction, following visits to Düsseldorf, Oosterbeek, Paris and Barbizon. In 1900 he wrote, "When I realised that history painting was not helping me to achieve real art because it is not based on a direct feeling for nature, I started to look for my models in and around Zandvoort and to study local interiors and the sea."

By changing from history painting to the depiction of everyday life, Israëls turned his back on the academic tradition. He painted the fishing families of Katwijk, Zandvoort and Scheveningen and the homes they lived in, emphasizing the poverty that was a frequent fact of life in those communities.

In 1863 he married Aleida Schaap. The couple had two children: Mathilde and Isaac. Domestic happiness and motherly love became a more frequent feature of his pictures. In the 1870s he switched his field of operations to The Hague and Het Gooi. He began to use broader brushstrokes, stronger contrasts between light and dark, and more transparent shadows. At the same time, his palette became cooler and he increasingly eliminated narrative details in order to concentrate entirely on mood.

Industrious women sitting sewing in the light from a window are a frequent subject in the work of Jozef Israëls.

Source: J. Sillevis, A. Tabak (eds.), Het Haagse School boek, Den Haag, Zwolle, 2001.


  • Title: The young seamstress
  • Creator: Jozef Israëls
  • Date Created: circa 1880
  • framing: The work has a plain inner frame (painted gold) and a decorative outer border richly ornamented with floral and foliate motifs in gilded plaster.
  • Physical Dimensions: w846 x h1104 cm (framed)
  • Type: paintings
  • Rights: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, gift 1889
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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