Jan Steen Netherlands

4-1626 Leiden, NED – 2-3-1679 Leiden, NED

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Steen, Jan

Jan Havickszoon Steen received his painterly education from Nicolaes Knupfer (1603–1660), a German painter of historical and figurative scenes in Utrecht.

In 1648 Jan Havickszoon Steen and Gabriël Metsu founded the painters' Guild of Saint Luke at Leiden. Soon after he became an assistant to the renowned landscape painter Jan van Goyen and moved into his house on the Bierkade in The Hague. On Oct 3, 1649 he married van Goyen's daughter Margriet, with whom he would have eight children. Steen worked with his father-in-law until 1654, when he moved to Delft, where he ran the brewery De Slang ("The Snake") for three years without much success.

Daily life was Jan Steen's main pictorial theme. Many of the genre scenes he portrayed, as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lust-fulness, even so much that "a Jan Steen household", meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch proverb. Subtle hints in his paintings seem to suggest that Steen meant to warn the viewer rather than invite him to copy this behavior. He often used members of his family as models, and painted quite a few self-portraits in which he showed no tendency of vanity.

Jan Steen was prolific, producing about 800 paintings, of which roughly 350 survive. His work was valued much by contemporaries and as a result he was reasonably well paid for his work. He did not have many students—only Richard Brakenburgh is recorded—but his work proved a source of inspiration for many painters.

It is often suggested that Jan Steen's paintings are a realistic portrayal of Dutch 17th-century life. However not everything he did was a purely realistic representation of his day-to-day environment.

Jan Steen portrayed many scenes from the lives of the Rederijkers, an example being the painting Rhetoricians at a Window of 1662–66 that is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The humanity, humor and optimism of the figures suggest that Jan Steen knew these men well, and wanted to portray them positively.

Jan Steen's numerous paintings of a theme most commonly entitled The Doctor’s Visit, such as the composition of 1665–70 in the Rijksmuseum, illustrate his theatrical approach.

Art Movement: Dutch Golden Age, Baroque Art
Influences: Nicolaes Knupfer, Adriaen, Isaac van Ostade
Influenced: Richard Brakenburgh
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