Bartholomeus Van Der Helst Biography | Oil Paintings.

8-1613 Haarlem, NED – 12-16-1670 Amsterdam, NED

Van Der Helst, Bartholomeus

Bartholomeus van der Helst learned his trade as a painter in Haarlem and when he moved to Amsterdam in 1636, Rembrandt was at the height of his popularity. Within the decade, Bartholomeus van der Helst would become the most popular painter of portraits in that city and surpass Rembrandt. As Rembrandt's work grew dim and reflective, many rich patrons were demanding a more elegant, less intense portrait and van der Helst flattering portraits in the style of Anthony van Dyck became more appealing, even some of Rembrandt's students, including Ferdinand Bol and Govaert Flinck, embraced Van Helst's style instead of their master's.

Bartholomeus van der Helst's most acclaimed portrait is his half-length oil painting of the seventeen years old Gerard Andriesz Bicker, the son of Andries Bicker, Amsterdam mayor, whom he also painted. This portrait is frequently used to portray obesity as a symbol of the wealth of the Amsterdam merchants of the Dutch Golden Age.

In 1643, when his first large (30 feet wide) schutterstuk (voluntary civic guard or citizen militia) group portrait, Captain Bicker's Company, was exhibited, it received rave reviews for its swagger, bright colors, and virtuoso display of finery, patrons flocked to Van der HelstIt and this painting firmly established his reputation. After painting group portraits, members of the schutterij (civic guard) would often commission the artists to paint their family portrait, the competition became fierce after Rembrandt van Rijn The Night Watch was painted.

When Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster, a large group portrait painted in 1648 was exhibited to popular and critical acclaim, it sealed Bartholomeus van der Helst's fame for future generations. In 2006, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Hans-Joachim Bohlmann, a German vandal who targeted artworks at public exhibitions and had damaged over fifty paintings in a thirty year period, splashed lighter fluid and set fire to it, fortunately most of the damage was to the varnish layer, Bohlmann was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Van der Helst's paintings remained fashionable into the next century. When the famous British portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds visited Amsterdam a century later, he praised the painting Captain Bicker's Company as "perhaps, the first picture of portraits in the world, comprehending more of those qualities which make a perfect portrait than any other I have ever seen."

Art Movement: Dutch Golden Age.
Artists Influencing Bartholomeus van der Helst: Frans Hals, Anthony Van Dyck.
Painters Bartholomeus van der Helst Influenced: Ferdinand Bol, Govaert Flinck, Lodewijk van der Helst.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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