Hendrik Willem Mesdag Biography
(born 23 februari 1831 –
died 10 juli 1915)
Mesdag was born in Groningen, the son of the banker Klaas Mesdag and his wife Johanna Wilhelmina van Giffen. Mesdag was encouaged by his father, an amateur painter, to study art. Mesdag married Sina van Houten in 1856, and when they inherited a fortune from her father, Mesdag retired from banking to pursue a career as a painter.
Mesdag studied in Brussels with Willem Roelofs and in 1868 moved to The Hague to paint the sea. In 1870 Mesdag exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon and won the gold medal for The Breakers of the North Sea.
In 1880 Mesdag received a commission from a Belgian company to paint a panorama giving a view over the village of Scheveningen on the North Sea coast near The Hague. With the help of Sina and students Mesdag completed the enormous painting — 14 m high and 120 m around — by 1881. However, the vogue for panoramas was coming to an end, and when the company operating it went bust in 1886, Mesdag purchased the painting at auction and thereafter funding its operating losses from his own pocket.
Mesdag joined the art society of The Hague (the Pulchri Studio) and in 1889 was elected chairman. In 1903 Mesdag gave his house at Laan van Meerdervoort and his collection of paintings to the Netherlands; the house is now the Museum Mesdag.