1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Israëls, Josef
ISRAËLS, JOSEF (1824– ), Dutch painter, was born at Groningen, of Hebrew parents, on the 27th of January 1824. His father intended him to be a man of business, and it was only after a determined struggle that he was allowed to enter on an artistic career. However, the attempts he made under the guidance of two second-rate painters in his native town—Buÿs and van Wicheren—while still working under his father as a stockbroker’s clerk, led to his being sent to Amsterdam, where he became a pupil of Jan Kruseman and attended the drawing class at the academy. He then spent two years in Paris, working in Picot’s studio, and returned to Amsterdam. There he remained till 1870, when he moved to The Hague for good. Israëls is justly regarded as one of the greatest of Dutch painters. He has often been compared to J. F. Millet. As artists, even more than as painters in the strict sense of the word, they both, in fact, saw in the life of the poor and humble a motive for expressing with peculiar intensity their wide human sympathy; but Millet was the poet of placid rural life, while in almost all Israëls’ pictures we find some piercing note of woe. Duranty said of them that “they were painted with gloom and suffering.” He began with historical and dramatic subjects in the romantic style of the day. By chance, after an illness, he went to recruit his strength at the fishing-town of Zandvoort near Haarlem, and there he was struck by the daily tragedy of life. Thenceforth he was possessed by a new vein of artistic expression, sincerely realistic, full of emotion and pity. Among his more important subsequent works are “The Zandvoort Fisherman” (in the Amsterdam gallery), “The Silent House” (which gained a gold medal at the Brussels Salon, 1858) and “Village Poor” (a prize at Manchester). In 1862 he achieved great success in London with his “Shipwrecked,” purchased by Mr Young, and “The Cradle,” two pictures of which the Athenaeum spoke as “the most touching pictures of the exhibition.” We may also mention among his maturer works “The Widower” (in the Mesdag collection), “When we grow Old” and “Alone in the World” (Amsterdam gallery), “An Interior” (Dordrecht gallery), “A Frugal Meal” (Glasgow museum), “Toilers of the Sea,” “A Speechless Dialogue,” “Between the Fields and the Seashore,” “The Bric-à-brac Seller” (which gained medals of honour at the great Paris Exhibition of 1900). “David Singing before Saul,” one of his latest works, seems to hint at a return on the part of the venerable artist to the Rembrandtesque note of his youth. As a water-colour painter and etcher he produced a vast number of works, which, like his oil paintings, are full of deep feeling. They are generally treated in broad masses of light and shade, which give prominence to the principal subject without any neglect of detail.
See Jan Veth, Mannen of Beteckenis: Jozef Israëls; Chesneau, Peintres français et étrangers; Ph. Zilcken, Peintres hollandais modernes (1893); Dumas, Illustrated Biographies of Modern Artists (1882–1884); J. de Meester, in Max Rooses’ Dutch Painters of the Nineteenth Century (1898); Jozef Israëls, Spain: the Story of a Journey (1900).