Imago 1900

Fragment from Alexander Nasmyth, Princes Street, 1825 ― Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

A Visual Ramble through
the Late 19th & Early 20th Century



An American view of Holland
Boughton and Abbey travelling in the Netherlands, 1880-1881

An American view of Holland. The first part of the video shows the two voyages, plotted on a map and illustrated with contemporary visual material (the Netherlands as Boughton and Abbey may have seen). The second is a selection of their drawings (their actual observations); 12:21 min; 853x640 px; larger view in seperate page.
Boughton and Abbey, portraits
Left: George Henry Boughton, self portrait, 1884. Right: Edwin Abbey, about 1870 (Wikipedia).
Boughton and Abbey

In the autumn of 1880 two American artists George Boughton and Edwin Abbey came to Holland to travel around and to make an illustrated account for Harper's New Monthly Magazine. This journal was issued by Harper & Brothers, a renowned American publishing house, founded in 1817 by James Harper and his brother John.

George Henry Boughton (1833-1905) was born in England and emigrated with his parents to America at a very young age. He studied art in France and became a landscape painter

In 1861 Boughton opened a studio in London. In this period his work showed great interest in early American history and the European roots (e.g. the Pilgrim Fathers). He was a good illustrator and an easy-to-read writer.

Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) was an American muralist, illustrator, and painter, who made already illustrations for magazines as Harper's Weekly. He also illustrated books, such as Dicken's Christmas Stories.


By the end of the nineteenth century, a growing awareness of Europe's roots was emerging in American society, finally leading to a large-scale spreading and reproduction of an idealised, nostalgic image of the Netherlands. Boughton and Abbey were at the beginning of this trend.

Their stories, published in Harper's Magazine as 'Artist Strolls in Holland' was well received in their home country. Various newspapers published positive comments in their Literary Notes columns, praising both text and illustrations because of "quaintness and novelty". The editor also published their contributions in book form, Sketching rambles in Holland.

The work includes the two voyages, the first trip (1880) in which mainly the western provinces were visited and the second (1881) that concerned the rest of the Netherlands, as far as worth seeing.


The text shows a vivid, visual and informal style of writing and is interleaved with sketches of people and places people and places they encountered on their journeys.


This collection of sketches is not a travel guide in the style of Baedeker. The work fits in with this tradition of less erudite travel reports, which vividly reflect the ins and outs of life in a distant country. The reader travels with the author and is shown around in the towns and villages he visits.

The Netherlands (or 'Holland' ― the most commonly used name abroad at that time) and the way of life of the Dutch people had already been extensively described by two Southern European authors, whose travelogues were widely read.

In the late 1870's Henry Havard (1838-1921), a French art historian specialized in Dutch art, had published a few books about Holland and Dutch culture. His La Hollande pittoresque: Aux ville mortes de Zuiderzée (1874) was translated into English and quite popular in the United States. It has the same form of a travel story, but with more historical flashbacks.

The second much read book in this genre had been written by an Italian author, Edmundo de Amicis (1846-1908). He was a novelist, journalist, poet and short-story writer. His contribution to Dutch travel literature was Olanda, also published in the 1870's and translated into English (Holland, two volumes), which can also be very well read as an adventure novel.



Stereotypes of the Netherlands
Windmills, tulips, clogs and cheese

Windmills, tulips, clogs and cheese. 20:26 min; 960x720 px; larger view in seperate page.
Slideshow showing typical Dutch elements. Use arrow keys on the left and right side or the indicator dashes for navigation.
Icons of Dutch culture

The Netherlands is well-known for its cultural icons, the windmills, tulips, wooden shoes and cheese. Even Dutch universities mention them in their advertisements for foreign students.

Although modern aspects are also emphasized like worldwide trade, knowledge economy and water management, these symbols are still used to ensure the country's recognizability.

This video is about the historical background of these cultural icons together with other characteristics attributed to the Dutch. This complex of images and views, shortly the dutchness, was not limited to the tourist sector, but also influenced the educational media, such as film and magic lantern slides, which were very popular for a long time.

It was constructed in the second half of the 19th century, when the still predominantly agricultural Netherlands offered a romantic and rustic appearance in comparison with already further industrialized countries like England and France. Industrialization here had a relatively late take-off. It lasted until 1900 before it had sufficiently changed the country's appearance.

'Typical Dutch' as tourist attraction

About 1870 travelers from abroad who arrived on the Dutch coast could easily think to go back in time. The scenery that unrolled before their eyes looked like that on paintings by the Dutch masters of the 17th century.

Thomas Cook organized trips to tulip fields and to relatively isolated islands as Marken, where it was suggested, one could meet the pure Dutch people, the "original sons of the Zuyderzee". In 1873 the French art historian Henry Havard made boat trip over this Zuiderzee (currently the IJsselmeer) and visited places like Marken, Volendam, Edam and Hoorn. His travelogue La Hollande Pittoresque was a huge success and was also translated into English.

But this image of dutchness was not all impelled from abroad, as the Netherlands itself contributed to it as well. Companies used the traditional regional dresses to give a typical Dutch touch to their export products. It took until the beginning of the 20th century before a profound change occurred in the 'national branding'. At that time, the leading industries required a modern imago and used the young Dutch film industry to express the new message. Since then, these features of the Netherlands have slowly changed into today's cultural icons.

  • Kooij, P. (2004) The images of Dutch cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In: Czaja, R. (ed.) Das Bild und die Wahrnemung der Stadt und er städtischen Gesellschaft im Hanseraum im Mittelalter und der frühen Neuzeit. Torun, p. 259-277.
  • Vries, J. de (2000) Dutch economic growth in comparative-historical perspective, 1500-2000. In: De Economist 148, no. 4, p. 443-467.
  • Wintle, M. (2000) An economic and social history of the Netherlands, 1880-1920. Demographic, economic ans social transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Albert Marquet (1875-1947)
moderate modernist

Albert Marquet and the fauvism, part 1: Youth and education. 2:28 min; 640x480 px; larger view in seperate page ― part 2: His artwork in context ≫.

Albert Marquet and the fauvism, part 2: His artwork in context. 3:36 min; 640x480 px; larger view in seperate page ― part 1: Youth and education ≫.

A few characteristic paintings by Marquet: a fauvist landscape, the Notre-Dame (Paris) in different seasons, paintings of nudes in which the technique of color modeling was used to give the figures volume. Source: The Athenaeum. Use arrow keys on the left and right side or the indicator dashes for navigation.

Albert Marquet was born in 1875 in Bordeaux. He studied at École des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. In 1895 he switched to the École des Beaux Arts where he came in contact with representatives of modern movements in painting like Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault.

He is best known as a fauvist painter. Fauvism was the style of les Fauves (French for "the wild beasts"), a group of early 20th century modern artists who emphasized the expressiveness of strong color over realistic elements. The style began around 1904 and continued beyond 1910. Henri Matisse and André Derain stood at the cradle of this movement.

The term fauvism was created at the exhibition of the Salon d'Automme (the annual autumn art exhibition in Paris) in 1905. One of the critics, Louis Vauxcelles, chracterized the brilliantly colorful paintings with wild brushstrokes as work made by fauves.

Marquet with his contemplative and slightly melancholic nature was not the most outspoken fauvist, although he produced work with clear fauvist characteristics. He was a moderate modernist, made paintings that also appealed to a wider audience, and, therefore, could very well sell his products throughout his life.

His artwork

Marquet is generally known as a painter of landscapes and cityscapes, with the sea, and rivers with boats. He preferred a view from above, with a wide perspective; depth was emphasized by diagonal lines.

Human figures are often simplified by a few lines. He was able to capture in a few strokes the essential characteristics of the figures or objects depicted.

Marquet admired Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet and Cézanne. Between 1897 and 1901 he practised different styles, varying from very colorful to palettes that betrays the influences of Matisse and Cézanne. As the impressionists he was very well able to render the local atmosphere.

He also painted a considerable number of nudes. Just as Cézanne, he used the technique of color modelling (a range of different colors that suggests the transition from light to dark) to create a sense of volume in the nude figures.

Marquet moved from Fauvism to a calm Impressionism, which made that his paintings were also appreciated by the general public. His later work is characterized by grayed yellows, violets and blues.



Domestic animals in the 19th century

Dogs in 19th-century painting. 4:01 min; 853x640 px; Larger view in seperate page.

Cats in 19th-century painting. 4:00 min; 853x640 px; larger view in seperate page.

Pets as cultural objects

In the nineteenth century pets acquired a modern status. They were clearly part of family life and almost treated as children. Many animals were used for some kind of work, cats and dogs, however, were subsumed within the family as almost an immediate kin.

In 1850, the Grammon Law prohibited the public abuse of all animals in France. A protest movement fighted against vivesection and cruel treatment of these fellow creatures.

Pets were often associated with children. Teaching children to care for pets prepared children to assume their future roles as tenderhearted mothers and fathers, was the idea.

In Victorian England the dog became more and more a real household animal, taking up privileges in the private sphere. The house dog was opposed to the stray dog on the street. Both, the professional dog show and the dog shelter, were also nineteenth century 'inventions'.

A lapdog was an indispensable attribute in social life for a fashionable woman in the England of Queen Victoria. A popular breed was the Skye terrier, a long, low, hardy animal, which enjoys life as a housedog, and prefers not to live outdoors.

Cats and dogs in painting

French impressionists like Mary Cassatt, Edouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir included pets in their representation of the home life.

The nineteenth century was not only the age of Impressionism. In the 1850s the Realist movement started in France, with Gustave Courbet as a chief exponent. It was a reaction against Romanticism and history painting. It sought to portray real contemporary people in situations of daily life.

Painting animals fitted very well in this style and became fashionable, particularly in England, where this genre already began in eighteenth century, with depicting racehorses.

Realistic animal portraiture was well paid. Some artists made this genre their specialty. To name a few examples, whose work is included in the videos:

John Henry Dolph (1835-1903) was an American and well-known for his landscapes; afterwards he specialised in painting pets.

Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939) was a hunter and a master in depicting wildlife in its natural environment.

The Swiss artist Gottfried Mind (1768-1814) had a weak constitution he led a life mainly indoors, which gave him the opportunity to paint domestic animals, especially cats.

The Dutch-Belgian painter Henriëtte Ronner-Knip (1821-1909) was born into a family of artists. She chose her own hunting dogs, cats and parrot as models for her work and used paper sculptures in combination with other objects to create a composition.

The less romantic life of dogs

These paintings can easily evoke a misleading picture of pets' real life. Stray dogs were a big problem. There was a widespread fear of rabies, transmitted by the bites of these often diseased animals living on the streets. Therefore dogs could be beaten or shot on sight by park keepers and police.

Concerned with the fate of dogs dying 'of lingering starvation' in the streets Mary Tealby founded the 'Battersea Dogs and Cats Home', in Holloway, London in 1860. This shelter was established at first in her own house and subsequently moved and finally, in 1871, ended up south of the river at Battersea.

Mary and her asylum were initially targeted by much incomprehension and derision. A lot of people considered supporters of animal charities as rediculous and sentimental. To survive, the asylum needed the warm support of a few enlighted authors such as Charles Dickens. It took until 1885 before Queen Victoria became patroness of the institution.

Dutch newspapers from the late nineteenth century show a similar, often grim picture. Many dog bite incidents and fear of rabies are reported. But also the Battersea Home is mentioned, be it much later. The writers of these short messages emphasize that the dogs were only kept for a few days. During that time the owner had to show up or the dog had to be sold, otherwise he ended his life in the death chamber and crematorium.

The role of cats

The cat took its place in domestic life alongside the dog. The fate of cats was twofold. Intellectuals such as Baudelaire embraced them. The cat was associated with female qualities. Cleanliness and sanitation became important issues in the rapidly urbanizing society. In advertisements the cat got the role of mascot for soap.

On the other hand, the eighteenth century ideas of George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707-1788) lived on, who had described in his Histoire Naturelle the cat as a wild, faithless animal, a necessary evil to keep mice away. The best education converts him into a servile and flattering robber. He associates cats with rapacious feminine sexuality and light morals. This symbol of negative sexuality also appears on Édouard Manet's painting Olympia (1863) in the form of a black cat.

Cat in Soapine advertisement
The good cat. Advertisement for Kendall Mfg. Company's Soapine household and laundry soap product showing the portrait of a young girl holding a cat. Library of Congress.
Cats (Buffon)
The bad cat. Illustration in the chapter on cats in Buffon's Histoire naturelle (short edition by P. Bernard, P. (1801) Histoire naturelle de Buffon. Paris: Hacquart), plate next to p. 226.



The picturesque landscape and scenic travel

Cat in Soapine advertisement
Detail from View on the River Camel, Cornwall. Thomas Rowlandson, 1822. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Until the early modern period, the landscape itself almost never played a central role in paintings; it mostly appeared as background in portraits. This changed in the seventeenth century, especially in the Low Countries, where painters such as Rubens, Van Goyen, Rembrandt, Van Ruisdael made landscape painting a independent genre. They strove for a realistic representation of nature as they saw it on the seashore and on the land, with ships on the high waves, cows along the ditches in the green polder land and tiny farms under impressive cloudy skies.

In common parlance we may be inclined to call such pleasant and colourful landscapes picturesque, but this term took on a very specific meaning in the artistic world of the late eighteenth century. A more precise meaning was formulated by the British clergyman William Gilpin. He defined it as halfway between two other prominent aesthetic categories: beautiful (smooth, regular, orderly, serene) and sublime (vastness, enormous, awe-inspiring).

According to him, a picturesque landscape was characterised by a certain roughness and diversity in various respects: variation in surface, vegetation, and colour, in short, the opposite of a rectilinear, artificial structure.

This varied image had to be worthy of a painting and required the right point of view to create such a picturesque composition.

The picturesque was therefore not only conceived as a property of the landscape itself, but was equally based on a way of seeing that required a certain artistic erudition. Gilpin encouraged ordinary visitors to seek out the picturesque and in his travel descriptions of a particular area he gave indications at which points one could enjoy stunning views. In this way he stimulated tourism in nature, with the aim of observing the picturesque and, if possible, recording it through sketches as keepsake for later.

This aesthetic appreciation of the landscape was of course not limited to Britain and British tourists, but resonated throughout Europe and encouraged scenic travel, made possible by an improved road network and public transportation.


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