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Jozef Israëls, Fishermen carrying a Drowned Man

Key facts
Full title Fishermen carrying a Drowned Man
Artist Jozef Israëls
Artist dates 1824 - 1911
Date made probably 1861
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 129 × 244 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs Alexander Young at her husband's wish, 1910
Inventory number NG2732
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Fishermen carrying a Drowned Man
Jozef Israëls

Dark groups of figures stand out against the light of the pale blue and silver sky. A huddled procession comes over the windswept dunes: two fishermen are carrying the body of dead man. Ahead of everyone else walks a woman, presumably the widow, her two children clinging to her.

The composition was probably painted in Amsterdam in 1861, from studies made in Zandvoort, a fishing village near Haarlem. Israëls spent several months in Zandvoort, becoming interested in the tragic lives of the fishermen and their families. He has depicted the subject of the drowned fisherman with unprecedented sympathy, and has used an unusually large format that was traditionally reserved for history paintings.

The work signified a breakthrough in Israëls’s career. It greatly impressed the critics when it appeared in successive exhibitions in Paris, Antwerp and London in the 1860s, establishing the artist’s reputation in France and England.

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