Isaac Israel’s pensive purple lady

November 7, 2014

Woman in front of sunflowers, by Isaac Israels

Woman in front of van Gogh’s sunflowers, by Isaac Israels

I first came across this painting several years ago in a magazine. Attracted by its simplicity and the freedom of the brushwork, I cut it out and put it up where I could see it daily. It has migrated from downstairs where I once had my little shop, to upstairs in my studio, and has survived any number of cullings and rearrangements.

At first,  I wasn’t that crazy about the subject matter, (although it was fascinating to find out recently that Israels had borrowed several of van Gogh’s sunflower paintings to study them, and had used them as backgrounds for several of his paintings beside this one). But it has grown on me to such an extent that I’m making a copy of it to learn as much as I can by reproducing it.

Slightly frustrated by having only a magazine photograph and a web image to refer to, I was longing to see the original.  It is in Holland at a well- known auctioneer, but at the moment it is too long a trip to make for one painting. Instead, I went to visit the Groninger Museum’s collection  in the hopes that I could find a similar painter from the same period to study.

I was delighted beyond words to actually find an Israels in the current display of part of the Groninger musem’s permanent collection. It seemed so coincidental, but I’m almost ashamed to admit, not being a great art history scholar, that I hadn’t realised that Israels was Dutch and a respected figure in the Amsterdam Impressionists group. The painting was a rather drab portrait of Aletta Jacobs, a well known Dutch doctor and feminist, but it was a prayer answered to be able to get up close and see the real colours and actual brushstrokes.

Copying a painting, for me, can be a spiritual experience of actually inhabiting the soul of the artist. By trying to reproduce the essence of the painting, you have to get inside the painter’s head and metaphorically strip layer by layer of time and pigment down to the beginnings, where he set it up, adjusted the light, and made the first sketch.

With Israels, this has been relatively easy. His work is so honest and transparent and somehow close to my own sensibility, not necessarily in technique but in intent,  it is fairly easy to imitate his technique. I’ll be showing the whole process soon.



3 Responses to “Isaac Israel’s pensive purple lady”

  1. My first thought when I saw this was of the portrait of Guus Preitinger by Kees van Dongen (coincidentally another Dutch painter). I think it’s also referred to as The blue dress.

  2. I am excited to see the outcome of your mind and soul’s eye. Always a treat! Happy painting!

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