Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries, Paris was the locus of artistic activity. For that reason, the current exhibition Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard profiles six long-term residents of the French capital: printmaker Henri Rivière, Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel, and four members of the Nabis (Hebrew for ‘prophets’), a well-known artists’ circle active in Paris. The show pairs the professional output of these selected post-Impressionists with their recreational experiments as amateur photographers. Introduced in 1888, the handheld Kodak camera became a ubiquitous accoutrement of the modern artist. In addition to Parisians, Snapshot also includes the work of Dutch modernist George Hendrick Breitner, which demonstrates the universality of the avant-garde and their quick response to new technology. Such efforts to present a more inclusive history of the period broaden the show’s geographical scope.
Breitner’s work is unfamiliar to many outside of his native Holland. He spent the majority of his career in The Hague and Amsterdam, with brief sojourns in Berlin, London, and Paris. From 1876 until 1880, Breitner attended the Hague Art Academy, and, following disciplinary expulsion from the institution, he continued his studies in the private studio of Hague School painter Willem Maris for one year. Under the tutelage of Maris, he painted en plein air, a practice that likely contributed to his break with more conventional methodologies. Around the same time, Breitner discovered the French Naturalist writings of Gustave Flaubert, the Goncourt brothers (Edmond and Jules), and Émile Zola, which informed his selection of subject matter. His compatriot Vincent van Gogh also exhibited an appreciation for the transnational literary movement. Naturalist texts made available a plethora of suitable motifs for urbanites like Breitner and van Gogh. The two artists exchanged their favorite publications, and van Gogh accompanied Breitner on sketching excursions in The Hague’s working-class districts, and other sites described by Naturalist authors. Consequently, these activities yielded cityscapes as opposed to the pastoral views and seascapes favored by the preceding generation of Dutch artists, namely the Hague School painters.