Peter de Hooch – the creator of chiaroscuro from the Golden Age of Dutch painting
Pieter de Hooch (born December 20, 1629 – died March 24, 1684) is a talented painter of the Golden Age of Dutch painting, a master of everyday genre scenes. Peter de Hooch’s paintings are bold experiments with backlighting. Although his biography has been little studied due to the lack of documentary evidence, his work left a noticeable mark in the history of the visual arts.
Pieter de Hooch painted scenes from everyday burgher life. He paid special attention to women’s troubles. A poetic look at the role of a mother, a housewife, her daily activities, sunny interiors of houses, give warmth and comfort, create, at the author’s will, an ideal version of the surrounding world.
Peter de Hooch is a difficult figure to learn. It is believed that he was born at the end of 1629, in the city of Rotterdam. According to the surviving church books, the boy was baptized on December 20. Most researchers took this day for the date of birth.
The father of the future painter was a bricklayer. Mother worked as a midwife. A modest family of townspeople raised five children, of which only one survived. The parents hoped that their son would master the craft and continue the family business. But at the age of seventeen, the young man went to the west of the country, to Haarlem, choosing the path of an artist.
He first studied with Nicholas Berchem (Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem the Elder). Period 1642-1645 spent in Rome, mastering Italian landscape painting. It can be assumed that Peter de Hooch was not satisfied with copying the teacher’s works, creating endless variations on a given theme. He was fascinated by the genre works of Frans Hals. The initial themes for the young man were the life of a soldier, the military in a civilian setting, peasants, the entourage of stables, scenes in taverns.
In the early 1650s, the artist worked for a wealthy merchant, a textile merchant, who at the same time collected a collection of paintings. Thanks to the constant traveling of the owner, Pieter de Hooch had the opportunity to travel, visit different cities. After 1652, he settled in Delft, and two years later he married, focusing on home comfort and family values.
The end of the 1650s was marked by a change in the painter’s style.
Art critics are constantly debating whether Peter de Hooch was influenced by his compatriot Jan Vermeer van Delft, or whether Vermeer himself adopted his style. Both masters paid a lot of attention to chiaroscuro, created a kind of highly moral fairy tales on everyday topics, ennobling reality.
The sixties of the 17th century can be called the “Amsterdam period”: moving to the capital, orders, wealthy patrons, the image of luxurious interiors, family portraits. But the time of prosperity was short-lived. In 1667, the artist’s beloved wife died, which undermined his moral health. A few years later, in 1672, a war with France began, significantly worsening the economy of the entire country. There are few buyers.
For many years, biographers believed that the famous Dutchman died on March 24, 1684, in an asylum for the insane. Since 2008, a new version has appeared: his son, who bore the name of his father, died in an insane asylum. The exact date and place of rest of Peter de Hooch remain a mystery.
The most famous paintings by Pieter de Hooch
Pieter de Hooch’s paintings show the general direction of Dutch painting in the illustrious 17th century. The most famous of de Hooch’s works, recognized by critics as genuine:
- “A Man with Dead Birds and Other Figures in a Stable” (1655) – the exact date of writing is unknown. It is believed that the plot has been changed, the dead birds and the dog are painted over the image of the wounded person.
- “The Courtyard of a House in Delft” (1658) is the author’s characteristic approach to the depiction of architecture, adding volume by skillfully handling chiaroscuro.
- “Card Players in a Sunlit Room” (1658) – kept in the famous collection of Windsor Castle. A striking example of the period of the Golden Age of Dutch painting.
- “A Mother’s Debt” (1658-1660) – critics recognize her as the best depiction of a home scene, full of deep inner meaning.
- The “Bedroom” (1658-1660) is considered to be a masterpiece that combines skillful live backlighting. It gives the home scene a fun morning atmosphere.
- “Interior with a man reading a letter and a woman sewing” (1670-1674) – the original is in a private collection. A typical scene from the artist’s late period.
- “Woman Peeling Apples” (c. 1663) – a quiet home environment, the style is similar to Jan Vermeer, which is why the work was attributed to him for a long time.