There are two museums in The Hague dedicated to the Dutch artist, Hendrik Willem Mesdag best-known for his incredible panorama of the Scheveningen beach in the 19th century. Firstly, the Panorama Mesdag museum which features this panorama and secondly, The Mesdag Collection (also known as Museum Mesdag), where the artist worked and lived (as seen below).
The first thing that strikes me about the Mesdag Collection is its location to the Peace Palace – one of the most important highlights of The Hague. From inside the museum you literally look onto a garden and the Peace Palace’s bell tower. This is no doubt a pretty impressive location in the heart of one of the most beautiful and prestigious neighbourhoods of the city.
To give you a bit of background, Mesdag (1831-1915) was quite a popular character at the time. He began as a businessman and later made art his life’s work. He mostly painted marine and beach scenes. Today Mesdag is considered one of the finest painters in the Netherlands.
But Mesdag did not only paint. He was also in a privileged position which enabled him to collect art. He and his wife Sientje (who was also a painter), collected paintings, sketches, ceramics and even Japanese art – all to be seen inside The Mesdag Collection today. In fact, during 1887 Mesdag built this museum onto his house and studio as an extension in order to showcase the works they had collected over the years. He would also personally take visitors around the museum on certain days of the week.
Inside, rooms seem quite simple in terms of furniture (some rooms don’t have any in fact). They are uncluttered with particularly unusual colours, take for instance this red-pink carpet with algae green door and matching wooden panelling – a tad bit kitsch.
My first highlight of The Mesdag Collection is this very impressive, colourful carpet designed by Theodoor Colenbrander. It’s known as the ‘Fish’ carpet and is made from virgin wool. The patterns seen to resemble fishlike shapes. It’s really the centre piece of the room and as such, there’s really no need for furniture at all.
The second most impressive room for me was this one below, filled with artworks the couple garnered over the years.
Next, I encountered the Chansons Grises exhibition – a room lined in tapestries within the Mesdag Collection dedicated to Mesdag (since 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death). Peter George d’Angelino Tap (in praise of both Mesdag and Van Gogh) created these wonderful table services inspired by the two artists. He was also inspired by a song called Chansons Grises by Reynaldo Hahn whilst creating these works, hence the name of the exhibition. It’s a most unusual room and it really plays on the metaphor of art as all-consuming, a ‘body’ of art – very effective indeed.
A little bit of Mesdag, if you will?
If you loved Panorama Mesdag, be sure to do a follow up session at The Mesdag Collection to complete your tour of Hendrik Willem Mesdag, one of the most influential Dutch artists of his time.