'Painter of the people'

George Hendrik Breitner calls himself ‘the painter of the people’. He paints the street life in Amsterdam and particularly the women of the Jordaan district and housemaids. For his nude paintings, usually girls from the lower classes pose, for a fee. Two of his models are Lise Jordan and her sister Marie, whom he later marries.

True to life

Female half nude is painted in warm colours, enlivened with bright tints. The large colour sections, the flat composition and the strong light-dark contrasts are reminiscent of the work of the French impressionists and particularly of Edouard Manet. Breitner, however, distinguishes himself from his French examples by depicting the female body rather true to life, against a background of light and colour. The fluent, rapid brushstrokes make the space around the nude appear to move.

Women of flesh and blood

Breitner’s loosely painted nudes, not idealized classical goddesses but women of flesh and blood, cause the necessary commotion. Some critics brand them a danger to morality. But artists such as Isaac Israels and Willem Witsen are deeply impressed and follow his example.