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Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-38)

( Originally Published 1955 )

Greatest Flemish seventeenth-century genre painter, he had a profound effect upon both Flemish and Dutch genre painting. He is supposed to have led a life of bohemian debauchery ending in premature death. Born in Oudenaerde, he went to Antwerp (c.1620), was in Amsterdam (1625), Haarlem (1626-31), and then returned to Antwerp (1632), where he remained until his death. Although there is some question as to his having studied with Frans Hals, he was undoubtedly influenced by the Dutch master. His early works (1621-26), brightly colored peasant scenes, show the influence of Brueghel, and are archaistic in manner. After his contact with Hals he was influenced by the latter's gray tonality, and began to seek atmospheric effects. virtuosity of brushwork, and animation of expression. In the early 1630's, after his return to Antwerp, his art became much more subtle and atmospheric, his compositions more integrated. and he achieved greater narrative concentration. His last style (1632-38) is characterized by an increased proportion of figure to space, a growing fluency of movement, a greater delicacy of rendering, and an interest in facial expression. His last works achieve a true monumentality in spite of their smallness. His art as well as his life was a conscious attempt, and one of the earliest, to epater les bourgeois. He represented the peasant not as romantically robust or sentimentally high-spirited, but in squalor and depravity. He had many followers, none of whom could match his sensitivity of observation or execution: Quast, the Ostades, Heemskerk and Molenaer among the Dutch, and Craesbeck (his companion in madcap adventures and his devoted disciple), Ryckaert, and Teniers.

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