Isaac Israels | Een dame bij de kleermaker | Kunsthandel Bies
Isaac Israels | Een dame bij de kleermaker

Israels, I. | A lady at the dressmaker’s

Isaac Lazarus (‘Isaac’) Israels

Amsterdam 1865 – 1934 The Hague

A lady at the dressmaker’s

Board laid down on panel  78.2 x 56.3 cm

Signed with studio stamp lower right


Collection A.D. Hamburger, Utrecht
Sale Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 15 April 1975, lot 63 as ‘Dame in lichtgrijze japon bij de kleermaker’
Kunsthandel Rob Noortman, Hulsberg, 1975, S 610, as ‘een dame bij de kleermaker’
Private Collection, Belgium


Themes from the world of fashion play a prominent role in the oeuvre of Isaac Israels. He produced countless drawings, watercolours, pastels and oil paintings of the ateliers, fitting rooms and showrooms of leading fashion houses in Amsterdam and Paris. He was particularly fascinated by all the activity behind the scenes: the work of the nimble-fingered seamstresses and dressmakers, the rooms filled with colourful fabrics and the scattered trimmings. Israels was a keen observer, a master of the art of depicting what he saw in a just a couple of astute strokes of brush, without that ever detracting from our recognition of his subjects.

In this painting we see a dress being fitted on a female model. A dressmaker, his furrowed eyebrows giving away his concentration, is putting the finishing touches to one of the sleeves. On the right-hand side is a table, on which we can just see the barest lines of a pair of scissors and some scraps of cloth. The entire composition displays a remarkable fluency of touch. The dressmaker’s black-and-white suit, high collar and starched cuffs contrast wonderfully with the fluid hang of the dress and its soft, pastel-pink shades. Israels has deliberately chosen to show only the barest of background details, so that our attention is not distracted from the two figures. By contrast, he has carefully elaborated the fine features of the woman’s face so as to do full justice to her beauty.

In 1882, a branch of the famous Brussels fashion house Hirsch & Cie opened in Amsterdam. Through a mutual friend, the portrait painter Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918), herself a great lover of fashion, Israels made the acquaintance of founders Sylvain Kahn and Albert “Sally” Berg. These two heavyweights of their industry gave the artist permission to work in their fashion house and ateliers, and also introduced him to their illustrious colleagues at the maisons Drecoll and Jeanne Paquin in Paris. This opportunity prompted Israels to pay his first working visit to the French capital in 1903, an experience he so enjoyed that the following year he decided to give up his studio in Amsterdam and settle in Paris for a while.

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Oil paintings