Girl in a Kimono by George Hendrik Breitner - 1893-95 - 31 x 39 cm, 61 x 50 cm private collection Girl in a Kimono by George Hendrik Breitner - 1893-95 - 31 x 39 cm, 61 x 50 cm private collection

Girl in a Kimono

gelatin silver print, oil on canvas • 31 x 39 cm, 61 x 50 cm
  • George Hendrik Breitner - September 12, 1857 - June 5, 1923 George Hendrik Breitner 1893-95

George Hendrik Breitner was born in 1857 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He displayed an early talent for painting and went to study at an art academy. There, his demeanor was so brusque and blunt that he was expelled. He moved to Den Haag, exploring the working class and sketching everywhere he went. In his style he followed what was called Social Realism and he thought himself a 'peintre du peuple', a painter of the people. In 1884 he travelled to Paris, where he learned about the Japonisme movement. He started collecting Japanese woodcuts and kimonos. In 1886 he moved to Amsterdam where he learned about photography. Walking through the city he took photographs of street life, normal people at work. He started to use his photo's for his paintings. Not only on the streets but also in general. 

He moved his camera from the streets to his studio. Asking working class models to pose for him. Thus he met with Geesje Kwak, a sixteen year old seamstress or millener whom he asked to pose for him wearing the kimonos from his collection. Within two years he painted seven works and several unfinished studies. They later got the name 'The girl in a kimono' series. Breitner kept very meticulous records of all the models that posed for him and what he payed them. Within two years his collaboration with Geesje ended when she and her sister emigrated to South Africa. Here she sadly died in 1899 of tuberculosis. 

Breitner went on to take photographs which he used for his paintings and made a large series of photographs recording old Amsterdam. His photographs were generally forgotten, but lately they are regarded to be as important as his paintings. Breitner died in 1923 in Amsterdam.

- Erik