March 31, 2019 – September 22, 2019 all-day

From the Highest Point: Land surveys in the time of Mesdag

Panorama Mesdag and TU Delft move together onto a higher plane with the exhibition

In 1880, while Mesdag was making sketches for his Panorama from the highest dune in Scheveningen, land surveyors were trekking across the entire country drawing up a map of the Netherlands. The painter and land surveyors alike sought out the highest points in the landscape: the first to create a spatial illusion and the latter to measure distances accurately. What similarities and differences were there in the approach of the artist and that of the surveyors? Thanks to a collaboration between Panorama Mesdag and TU Delft, this theme is explored and explained in an accessible way.

TU Delft Library collection at Panorama Mesdag

TU Delft Library is offering visitors a unique opportunity to come and admire its Special Collections outside the walls of the campus. In the exhibition rooms of Panorama Mesdag, the history of land surveying is ‘mapped’, as it were, using measuring instruments, drawings and historical maps. Scientific photos show the highest points on the landscape, including spectacular temporary constructions that were specially built for surveying the land. Visitors can also stroll through digital and interactive maps that show earlier measurement points used by Cornelis Krayenhoff and the National Committee. These maps also show how the landscape has been constantly changing from Mesdag’s time to today.

The village of Scheveningen, Panorama Mesdag, detail

Unique experiment

Specially for this exhibition, TU Delft students and researchers performed a land surveying experiment involving the Panorama to determine exactly where on the Seinpostduin Mesdag stood when painting his huge canvas. The starting points are the lighthouse, water tower, Oude Kerk (church spire) and other elevated spots Mesdag depicts. Even today these reference points are clearly visible and recognisable on the landscape of Scheveningen. Now, 137 years later, using traditional techniques, the position of these points in the Panorama are compared to their actual coordinates. How accurate was Mesdag and how much artistic license did he allow himself? The fascinating results of this experiment in ‘surveying the past’ are presented and explained at the exhibition.

The exhibition From the Highest Point: Land surveys in the time of Mesdag is in collaboration with TU Delft and is on display at Panorama Mesdag from 31 March to 22 September 2019.