Flemish genre painting  

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The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck
The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck

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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.

Genre paintings, or scenes of everyday life, are common in the Flemish art of the 17th century. Many artists follow the tradition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder in depicting "low-life" peasant themes, although elegant "high-life" subjects featuring fashionably-dressed couples at balls or in gardens of love are also common. Adriaen Brouwer, whose small paintings often show peasants fighting and drinking, was particularly influential on subsequent artists. Images of woman performing household tasks, popularized in the northern Netherlands by Pieter de Hooch and Jan Vermeer, is not a significant subject in the south, although artists such as Jan Siberechts explored these themes to some degree.


Bruegel tradition

Flemish genre painting is strongly tied to the traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and was a style that continued directly into the 17th century through copies and new compositions made by his sons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Many of these are kermis paintings and scenes of peasants partaking other outdoor enjoyments viewed from an elevated viewpoint. Artists in the Dutch Republic, such as the Flemish-born David Vinckboons and Roelandt Savery, also made similar works, popularizing rustic scenes of everyday life closely associated with Dutch and Flemish painting.

Adriaen Brouwer and his followers

Adriaen Brouwer (1605 or 1606–1638) typically painted small scenes of ragged peasants fighting, gaming, drinking and generally expressing exaggerated and rude behaviour. Born in the Southern Netherlands, Brouwer spent the 1620s in Amsterdam and Haarlem, where he came under the influence of Frans and Dirk Hals and other artists working in a loose painterly manner. Upon his return to Antwerp around 1631 or 1632 he introduced a new, influential format in which the subjects were painted as interior, instead of exterior, scenes. He also painted expressive facial studies like The Bitter Drink, a genre called tronies ("faces"). Brouwer's art was recognized in his own lifetime and had a powerful impact on Flemish art. Rubens owned more works by him at the time of his death than any other painter, and artists such as David Teniers the Younger, Jan van de Venne, Joos van Craesbeeck and David Ryckaert III continued to work in a similar manner.

Elegant company scenes

Paintings of elegant couples in the latest fashions, often with underlying themes of love or the five senses, were commonly painted by Hieronymous Francken the Younger, Louis de Caullery, Simon de Vos, David Teniers the Younger and David Ryckaert III. Rubens's Garden of Love (c. 1634–5; Prado Museum) belongs to these traditions.

Monumental genre scenes

Whereas elegant company scenes and works by Brouwer and his followers were often small in scale, other artists looked to Caravaggio for inspiration and painted large-scale, theatrically inspired scenes in which musicians, cardplayers, and fortune tellers are pushed to the foreground of the composition. These paintings, like others by Caravaggisti, are generally illuminated by strong lighting effects. Adam de Coster, Gerard Seghers and Theodoor Rombouts were the main exponents of this popular style in the early 17th century, which was popularized by Italian followers of Caravaggio like Bartolomeo Manfredi and Utrecht Caravaggisti like Gerrit van Honthorst. Rombouts was also influenced by his teacher Abraham Janssens, who began incorporating Caravaggesque influences into his history paintings from first decade of the 17th century.

Jacob Jordaens

Jacob Jordaens, who became Antwerp's most important artist after Rubens's death in 1640, is well-known for his monumental genre paintings of subjects such as The King Drinks and As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young. Many of these paintings use compositional and lighting influences similar to those of the Caravaggisti, while the treatment of the subjects inspired Dutch artists like Jan Steen.

Battle scenes

Another popular type of painting invented in the Low Countries was landscapes with historical and fictional battles, as well as skirmishes and robberies. Sebastiaen Vrancx and his pupil Pieter Snayers specialized in this genre, and Snayer's student Adam-Frans van der Meulen continued painting them in Antwerp, Brussels and Paris until the end of the century.

Bamboccianti and Italian classicism

Following a time-honoured tradition, many northern artists travelled to Italy in the 17th century. Flemish artists such as Jan Miel (1599–1664) and Michael Sweerts (1618–1664) settled in Rome and adopted the style of the Dutch painter Pieter van Laer. Known as the Bamboccianti they specialized in rustic scenes of everyday life in Rome and its countryside. These paintings are inspired by the colors of the Roman Campagna and study of classical sculpture. In general, genre painting was not as accepted in Italy, especially by official organizations such as the Academy of St. Luke, so many of the painters also joined the Bentvueghels. It acted loosely as a guild (but is better-known for the "bohemian" lifestyles of its members and drunken festivities), bringing together Dutch and Flemish painters with similar interests and traditions.

See also

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