Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Pieter de Hooch

This is a week for great artists. First Klee, now de Hooch whose work so impressed me in the traveling show from the Hague.This was one of the best shows that I have seen in San Francisco and not only because they were exhibiting “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” 17th century art is a genre that I can view over and over - so many masterpieces that pull you in by their skill, their love of ordinary life and their understated mystique.

December 20, 1629. Pieter de Hooch, also spelled "Hoogh" or "Hooghe" (baptized December 20, 1629 - 1684) was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style. Most scholars believe that de Hooch's work after around 1670 became more stylized and deteriorated in quality. It may be that his distress (at age 38, with a young family) at the death of his wife (in 1667) affected his work.

 In any case, his health was now deteriorating, and he died in 1684 in an Amsterdam insane asylum, though the direct cause of his admission there is unknown. In this image: A Couple Walking in the Citizens' Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall (aka Départ pour la promenade) - circa 1663-65 oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg.

 A Dutch Courtyard, 1658/1660 (this piece was on exhibit at the de Young, SF - from the National Gallery of Art)

De Hooch is noted for his interior scenes and use of light and best known for his early works, which he painted in Delft. His favorite subjects were middle-class families in ordinary interiors and sunny courtyards, performing their humble daily duties in a calm atmosphere disrupted only by the radiant entry of natural light penetrating a door or window. Critics believe that it was De Hooch who influenced Vermeer rather than the contrary. De Hooch repeated his basic compositions many times, so that some consider his later works less interesting. Alejandro Vergara, Vermeer and the Dutch Interior. Madrid, 2003, p. 211

Soldiers playing cards. 

Woman with baby on her lap, 1658

 "De Hooch's paintings have complex structures, which create the illusion of real perspective. Rectangular architectural frames and blocks give the impression of distance, and lead the viewer's eye to the main focus of the painting...receding floor tiles also help to create this impression of perspective.

"As well as his mastery of perspective, De Hooch was skilled in the portrayal of natural light falling on a scene. His light is warm - more intense than Vermeer's - and his color range is richer, with fewer cool tones."

- From Kirsten Bradbury, "Essential History of Art"

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