Panorama Mesdag in The Hague

I like a good beach walk, but only when the weather is nice. In The Hague we are fortunate to have an alternative indoor facility. We can enjoy the sea, the dunes and the beach at Panorama Mesdag on Zeestraat.


Few people know that Panorama Mesdag began as a private enterprise and remains so to this very day. In the second half of the 19th century, panoramas were as popular as a virtual headset is today. Entrepreneurs grabbed the opportunity to make money. The painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag was approached by a Belgian company to start this project. They commissioned him to make ‘The Hague Maritime Panorama’.

Set up and execution

Panorama Mesdag Den HaagMesdag invited a young painter, George Breitner, to work with him, and they made several sketches. Mesdag stood on Seinpostduin, the highest dune in Scheveningen, the seaside resort of The Hague. He drew the profile of the panorama on a glass cylinder. By placing a light in this cylinder, he projected this profile on an enormous canvas, 14,5 meters high and 114, 5 meters long.
The actual job of painting took four months, and it wasn’t a one-man job. Mesdag engaged some experts: George Breitner painted the cavalry exercising on the beach. Théophile de Bock provided the dunes and the southern sky. Mesdag himself painted the boats and the sea. Some details were painted by Mesdag’s wife, Sientje Mesdag-Van Houten, and Bernard Blommers. The completed panorama was displayed in a sixteen-sided, steel-framed and brick-clad building, erected just for this purpose, so that visitors could enjoy the scene “in the round”.

Commercial success?

Panorama Mesdag Den HaagThe maritime panorama opened to the public on August 1, 1881. Unfortunately, the panorama craze was fading fast, and by 1885 the company had filed for bankruptcy. Mesdag was a man of considerable means and he didn’t want his work to vanish, so he bought the panorama himself. Despite the addition of exhibition rooms, Mesdag was not able to make the enterprise profitable. For the rest of his life he used his personal funds to keep the panorama going.
Hendrik Mesdag and his wife died childless and their nieces and nephews inherited their estate. The Municipality of The Hague made a great contribution to the survival of the panorama by renting the whole complex to house the Modern Art department of the Municipal Museum. This lasted until 1934 and the low entrance fees attracted many visitors.

The present day

Panorama Mesdag Den HaagAs we all know, the Panorama is alive and kicking. After the Municipal Museum left, the books were balanced by renting out the exhibition rooms and by selling the occasional painting. A lot of money was needed to pay for extensive maintenance. After World War II attendance grew to more than 150,000 a year, a number that has held steady even today. The Panorama Mesdag is a must, not just for visitors to The Hague. If you live in this city, you should pay a visit at least once a year.

You find The Panorama Mesdag in the Willemspark area in The Hague, a beautiful 19th century extension to the city. You can explore this part of The Hague during the Willemspark Walk

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Jacqueline Alders 3

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