Adriaen van Ostade (1610-85)
A more decorous follower of the brilliant painting of Frans Hals (1582-1666) and Dirck Hals was Adriaen van Ostade. Born at Haarlem in 1610, admitted as a master painter in 1634, he was married in 1638, and a second time, to an heiress at Amsterdam, in 1657. No less than three times the guild chose him as headman. He died at a good old age in 1685 and was honourably buried in the Church of St. Bavon.
Although Ostade learned from two most exuberant geniuses, Hals and Adriaen Brouwer (1605-38), he became the most discreet of executants. In his extraordinarily thoughtful and skilful handling of the new aesthetic of Protestant Reformation art, everything is for character and truthfulness and nothing for show. His genre-painting charmingly combines ready sympathy of observation with reflection.
For details and information about
the 17th Century style of easel-art
which flourished in Holland, see:
Frans Snyders (1579-1657)
Still life painter from Antwerp.
Hendrik Terbrugghen (1588-1629)
Painter of the Utrecht school.
Gerard Terborch (1617-81)
Genre painter, Amsterdam, Haarlem.
Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91)
Dordrecht landscape artist.
Jan Steen (1626-79)
Leiden artist: tavern scenes.
Jacob Van Ruisdael (1628-82)
Haarlem-born landscape painter
Pieter de Hooch (1629-83)
Famous Delft school genre-painter.
Gabriel Metsu (1629-67)
Intimate small-scale genre scenes.
Jan Vermeer (1632-75)
Greatest Dutch Realist artist.
Baroque Art Movement
17th century art movement.
DUTCH STILL LIFE
WORLD'S BEST ART
Paintings and Style of Dutch Realism
His art developed under the influence of Rembrandt (1606-69), whose permeable dusk he emulated in his interiors. This dusk reduces the really considerable variety of colours in Ostade to hues, so that his pictures, really more positively colourful, yield less sense of colour than those of Brouwer, which are built around a single accent of frank colour.
For a discussion about the
meaning and definition of art,
see: What is Art?
Unlike Brouwer, Ostade has no part in the life he studies. He is a gentleman with a hobby for the observation of peasant life. His attitude is kindly and understanding, just a little condescending. Accordingly his peasants have not the raciness and complete authenticity of Brouwer's. Ostade sees the peasant in terms of a grotesqueness which is not inherent, but relative to a middle-class point of view. Where Brouwer paints individuals, Ostade frequently resorts to types, and practices, in his squat, gnomelike proportions, a gentle and effective caricature.
When Ostade was still in pupil estate, in the late 1620s, Brouwer was at his brilliant beginnings at Haarlem. His influence is unmistakably dominant in the early Ostades. The peasant fights, at Munich and Dresden, the carouses, at Munich and Darmstadt, are conceived entirely in Brouwer's drastic vein, but are conducted without his conciseness and fine compositional economy. Ostade was evidently self-critical enough to realize his limitations, and soon abandoned subjects alien to his gentle disposition.
From his early thirties we have his characteristic
pictures, such as Interior of a Peasant Hut, 1642, and the Village
Schoolmaster. The Peasant Hut has pretty much everything one
would want in an Ostade - farm gear quietly visible in the dusk, handsome
modulation of the light about a focus, suggestion of work and of the care
of children - all cunningly woven into a cozy fairyland. The Village
Schoolmaster - a subject Ostade loved and many times repeated - has
a similar charm of interior lighting and a precious humouristic touch
in the uncomfortable slouchiness of the pedagogue's little victims.
In the swiftness and lightness of the handling we are still near the procedures of Frans Hals and Judith Leyster. That blissful nirvana which the convinced smoker occasionally attains is capitally suggested. The quadrangles of the window opening, the merely indicated casement, the reserved panel of the wall, and the diagonally presented table top are given a maximum compositional value. An exquisite example of the themes of the quintessential Dutch Realist style.
In his late forties Ostade came under the
influence of Rubens' blond and transparent painting,
and, I believe, may have studied the technically similar work of David
Teniers the Younger (1610-90). Ostade brightens his palette a little,
gives a larger place to light in his pictures, enriches his neutrals with
opalescences of many tints, handles the pigment even more thinly and lightly.
He tends to set his groups out-of-doors: the amazingly fresh and genial
Strolling Fiddler; the Inn on a Country Road; a Skating
Scene. To this period belong the admirable family group, After
Dinner, in Buckingham Palace, London; the Backgammon Players,
in the same collection; the Engaged Table, with its comfortably
arranged group of cronies; and two very interesting pictures of himself
painting in his studio, at Amsterdam and Dresden. In both he is working
on a landscape, and the light pouring in from a window is thrown down,
softened and diffused by a velarium. Thus his effective illumination is
rather arranged and observed than invented.
One of the most consistent of Dutch Old Masters, the ideal behind Adriaen van Ostade's art is that of a humorous poetizing of the peasant at ease - an exaltation of the peasant's canniness and ready friendliness. It is enough to make him one of the most companionable of painters, as he was one of the most delicately conscientious of technicians. Adriaen van Ostade died in April, 1685, having apparently been inactive for the last ten years or so of his life. He left to his only daughter, Maria, a handsome inheritance and no less than two hundred of his unsold pictures. There seems to have been no element of struggle in his life, and his fine art painting is rather fastidious than strenuous. Within its limitations it is quite perfect. Works by Adriaen van Ostade can be seen in the best art museums across Europe.
For biographies of great artists,
see: Famous Painters.