Clara Peeters  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Clara Peeters (probably Antwerp 1594 – possibly after 1657) was a still-life painter who came from Antwerp and trained in the tradition of Flemish Baroque painting, but probably made her career mostly in the new Dutch Republic, as part of Dutch Golden Age painting. From dates on her paintings, she was fully active between 1607 and 1621, but after that the picture is less clear, though works were produced until the mid-1630s. Many aspects of her life and work remain very unclear, especially outside the period 1607 to 1621, when she was between 13/14 and 28 years old according to the usual dating. As Seymour Slive puts it "Not a single uncontested document has surfaced about her life but there is reason to believe she was active in both Flanders and Holland."

She was unusual for her time in being a female painter, and is the earliest significant woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age; if regarded as a Flemish painter, she was the most famous woman of the 17th century. Most other female Dutch painters also specialized in still-lifes, which did not require knowledge of anatomy, among other advantages for women. Unlike Maria van Oosterwyck and Rachel Ruysch, who specialized in flower painting, Peeters painted mostly subjects including food, and was prominent among the artists who shaped the traditions of the Dutch ontbijtjes, "breakfast pieces" with plain food and simple vessels, and banketje, "banquet pieces" with expensive cups and vessels in precious metals. More than any other artist, her works often include careful depictions of different types of cheese, still a food taken very seriously by the Dutch.

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