Monday, January 27, 2014

Hendrick Avercamp

Today's birthday is that of Hendrick Avercamp who appears to have overcome some very serious obstacles to make his elegantly detailed paintings. He was both deaf and mute but was able to study with two important painters of the time, Pieter Isaacks (1569-1625) and perhaps (according to Wikipedia) with David Vinckbooms.

Avercamp was the first artist to specialize in painting winter landscapes that feature people enjoying themselves on the ice. He made the "ice scene" a genre in its own right. Within these winter scenes is a social narrative as well: unencumbered by status, all classes formed one community on the ice. Avercamp was also an outstanding draftsman who made individual figure studies that he utilized not only in his painted work but also in compositional drawings.

The Wikipedia article has the bare bones of the man's life but leaves so much unknown. Could Avercamp read and write? Since he was deaf as well as mute who sold his works so that he wasn't ripped off? Various other records testify to Avercamp's disability: in 1622, a document refers to him as "Hendrick Avercamp de Stomme", and his mother's will, drawn up in 1633, instructs that her unmarried, "mute and miserable" son Hendrick should receive, in addition to his portion of the inheritance, an extra allowance of one hundred guilders a year for life from family capital.

Fun on Ice. 

As one of the first landscape painters of the 17th-century Dutch school, he specialized in painting the Netherlands in winter. Avercamp's paintings are colorful and lively, with carefully crafted images of the people in the landscape. Many of Avercamp's paintings feature people ice skating on frozen lakes.

Avercamp's work enjoyed great popularity and he sold his drawings, many of which were tinted with water-color, as finished pictures to be pasted into the albums of collectors. The Royal Collection has an outstanding collection of his works.
Avercamp died in Kampen (age 49) and was interred there in the Sint Nicolaaskerk.

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