The Witch of Dongen | Dongen Revisited

October, 12th 2019 - January, 26th 2020


Stedelijk Museum Breda
Boschstraat 22, 4811 GH Breda


On October 12, Stedelijk Museum Breda, in collaboration with the Van GoghHuis, will be presenting The Witch of Dongen, the first major retrospective to feature the group of painters that worked in the village of Dongen. For the first time ever, more than 100 works created in and around Dongen in the 19th century have been brought together. Together, they tell the fascinating story of one of the earliest artists’villages in the Netherlands. In Dongen Revisited, ten contemporary artists reflect on the work of their 19th-century colleagues.


Artists discover Dongen

In the 19th century, renowned artists including August Allebé, Jozef Israëls, Max Liebermann and Suze Robertson would regularly visit Dongen, near the city of Breda in the province of Brabant. At the time, the village remained unaffected by the new era. Below the Netherland’s great rivers, artists found an environment similar to that depicted in the work of Golden Age painters. Dongen soon became one of the earliest artists’villages in the Netherlands. The artists drew and painted the romantic landscape, the farms and their residents, and artisans such as weavers, shoemakers and lacemakers. Their work became particularly popular in a short time and inspired other artists.

Van Gogh’s inspiration

Motifs in paintings by the Dongen artists were also a source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh. He, too, featured subjects such as farmers and weavers in his work. For The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh was inspired by Peasant family at the table,a painting Jozef Israëls made in Dongen. In an 1882 letter to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote that he was deeply struck by the atmosphere, the poverty and the emotion that emanated from the canvas. The Van Gogh Museum has given masterpiece by Jozef Israëls on loan to Stedelijk Museum Breda especially for the exhibition.


Dongen Revisited: current perspective 

How does the work by the Dongen artists relate to the world of today? In Dongen Revisited, ten artists answer this question from their own perspective. They demonstrate how themes from the 19th century are still relevant today. 
Featuring work by: Patrick van Caeckenbergh, Tessa Chaplin, Ruud van Empel, Ingeborg Entrop, Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries, Dirk Kome, Anna Lange, Abdol Motavassel, Olphaert den Otter and Marenne Welten. 

Alongside Van Gogh– Suze Robertson & Marenne Welten 
As part of The Witch of Dongen, the exhibition Suze Robertson & Marenne Welten –Alongside Van Goghcan be seen at the Vincent van GoghHuis in Zundert. The subjects and painting style of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporary Suze Robertson - known as ‘the female Van Gogh’- show a special relationship. Stedelijk Museum Breda is exhibiting a number of works she painted in Dongen, whereas the emphasis at the Van GoghHuis is on her work from Etten-Leur. The art of Suze Robertson is shown in relation to that of contemporary artist Marenne Welten.



Two publications will appear alongside the exhibition: the richly illustrated book

De Schilders van Dongen(The Painters of Dongen) in the WBOOKS series on artists’ villages in the Netherlands and Dongen Revisited, an edition published by Stedelijk Museum Breda.


The Witch of Dongen
From its own collection, Stedelijk Museum Breda is exhibiting the 1880 masterpiece 
The spinster in Dongenby Max Liebermann. The woman at the spinning wheel is Pietje Verhoef, an elderly farmer’s wife, who became a popular painter’s model. The artists would frequently portray her, bent over her handiwork, carrying twigs, as a fortune teller or as a sorceress. As ‘the witch of Dongen’ she came to personify Dongen.