Jan Steen Biography | Oil Paintings.

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

Steen, Jan

Jan Steen received his art training in Utrecht under the German painter of historical and figurative scenes Nicolaes Knupfer. In 1648 at the age of twenty-two, Jan Havicksz Steen and Gabriël Metsu founded the painters' Guild of Saint Luke at Leiden. That same year he became an assistant to Jan van Goyen, the landscape painter, and moved into his home in The Hague and in a year had married van Goyen's daughter, with whom he would have eight children. Steen assisted his father-in-law until 1654, when he moved to Delft, to run the beer brewery De Slang (The Snake) for three years without much success.

Painting daily life scenes was Jan Steen's main pictorial theme. Many of these paintings, such as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lustfulness, "a Jan Steen household", meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch adage. Subtle hints in his paintings suggest that Steen intended to caution the viewer as opposed to welcoming him to copy his bad conduct by using members of his family as models. Steen, a Catholic painter in a Calvinist country, depicts unusual, highly symbolic scenes, in which he completely subverts the natural and social order, as in Beware of Luxury. Severe, moralizing harmony degenerates into happy parties of drinkers, the chaos that invades the home, whimpering children, disobedient dogs, and people sprawled in indecent positions. This is the other face of tidy, devout Holland, village festivals, merry-making, drinking sessions, and sensuality.

Jan Steen was very productive, producing about 800 paintings, of which about half survive today. His work was much valued by his patrons and was generously compensated for his work. His only recorded student is Richard Brakenburgh, although his work proved a source of inspiration for many painters.

It is regularly proposed that Jan Steen's artistic creations are a sensitive depiction of Dutch seventeenth-century life, however, not all that he painted was a realistic representation of his everyday condition and events.

Jan Havicksz Steen portrayed many scenes from the lives of the Rederijkers, the local dramatic societies, an example being the painting Rhetoricians at a Window. The figures suggest they were Jan Steen's friends, and he wanted to portray them in a good light.

Jan Havicksz Steen's numerous paintings of The Doctor’s Visit, in a theatrical nature, show the characters in Steen's paintings are predominantly theatrical characters and not ones from reality.

Art Movement: Dutch Golden Age.
Artists Influencing Jan Steen: Nicolaes Knupfer, Adriaen, Isaac van Ostade.
Painters Jan Havicksz Steen Influenced: Richard Brakenburgh.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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