Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem  

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

Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem (1 October 1620 - 18 February 1683) was a highly esteemed and prolific Dutch painter of pastoral landscapes, populated with mythological or biblical figures, but also of a number allegories and genre pieces.

Born in Haarlem, he received instruction from his father Pieter Claesz, and from the painters Jan van Goyen, Jan Wils and Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert. (It is not known why he called himself Berchem or Berighem, and other variants). For some time it was supposed Berchem traveled to Italy with a fellow painter Jan Baptist Weenix, whom he called his cousin. In 1645 he became a member of the Dutch reformed church and married the year after. Being a widower he married the daughter of Jan Wils. Around 1650 he did travel to Westphalia with Jacob van Ruisdael. May be Berchem went to Italy after this trip and before he moved to Amsterdam. Around 1660 he worked for the engraver Jan de Visscher designing an atlas. In 1670 he moved back to Haarlem, but Berchem died in Amsterdam in 1683.

His paintings, of which he produced an immense number, (Hofstede de Groot claimed around 850, although many are misattributed), were in great demand, as were his 80 etchings and 500 drawings. His landscapes, painted in the Italian style of idealized rural scenes, with hills, mountains, cliffs and trees in a golden dawn are sought after. Berchem also painted inspired and attractive human and animal figures in works of other artists, like Allaert van Everdingen, Jan Hackaert, Gerrit Dou, Meindert Hobbema and Willem Schellinks. The French Rococo painter Jean-Baptiste Pillement was influenced by his works.




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