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Jozef Israëls, An Old Man writing by Candlelight

Key facts
Full title An Old Man writing by Candlelight
Artist Jozef Israëls
Artist dates 1824 - 1911
Date made about 1885-99
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 65 × 54.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by J.C.J. Drucker, 1910
Inventory number NG2713
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Old Man writing by Candlelight
Jozef Israëls

An old man writes by the glow of a candle; it appears to be the only source of light in the darkened room. A collection of framed prints and drawings crowded on the wall is barely visible. Wide cracks caused by paint shrinkage run across the canvas, revealing the white ground and making the details of the composition hard to decipher.

Jean Charles Joseph Drucker, the previous owner of the painting, referred to it as ‘The Philosopher’. The title might be the one given by Jozef Israëls, who was a friend of Drucker. The artist has drawn on a long tradition in Dutch art of depicting scholars in their studies. The subtle light effects are reminiscent of Rembrandt, an artist Israëls greatly admired and with whom he was often compared by critics. This was among the first works by a contemporary Dutch artist to be shown at the National Gallery.

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