Mata Hari by Isaac Israels - 1916 Kröller-Müller Museum Mata Hari by Isaac Israels - 1916 Kröller-Müller Museum

Mata Hari

oil on canvas •
  • Isaac Israels - 3 February 1865 - 7 October 1934 Isaac Israels 1916

We present today's painting thanks to our beloved Kröller-Müller Museum. The painting is on loan to the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, at a special Mata Hari exhibition until 2 April 2018.

From an early age, Isaac Israels received training in the studio of his father Jozef Israels, the famous Hague School painter. After a brief period of study at the Rijksakademie, Isaac remained in Amsterdam and documented the city life and its turbulent nightlife. He paints rapidly without too many details; he is interested in the distinguishing aspects of his subjects. Israels paints many women, at first mainly factory workers and housemaids, later also fashionable ladies.

The Frisian Mata Hari, whose actual name was Margaretha Zelle, performed all over Europe as an exotic dancer. She was a hit in Paris in particular. She was accused of spying for the Germans during the First World War and was executed by firing squad in 1917.

Israels painted this monumental portrait of Mata Hari in the previous year, while she was temporarily living in The Hague. He portrays her as an elegant, self-assured young woman. The painting is rendered in loose, quick brushstrokes and smears, with little color. All the attention is focused on her tall, dignified stature.