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Willem Kalf

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Willem Kalf

*  1619 Rotterdam
† 1693 Amsterdam


In 1619 Willem Kalf, one of the most important representatives of baroque flamboyant still life painting, was born in Rotterdam. Willem Kalf was son of a wealthy family – his father was a successful cloth trader and held several public posts. It can be assumed that the later painter of luxuriously endowed still lives was surrounded by such objects from early childhood on.
Little is known about his early endeavors in art, Hendrik Pot and François Rykhals are mentioned as potential teachers. As a young man Willem Kalf spent some years in Paris, there is proof for him in Saint-Germain-des-Prés for 1642. His later path became obvious during his time in France: Next to simple kitchen pieces in small formats, he also made his first rich still life paintings.
In 1646 Willem Kalf returned to Rotterdam and eventually settled in Hoorn, where he married the graphic artist Cornelia Pluvier van Vollenhove in1651.
As of 1653 Willem Kalf, who was regarded a highly educated and sophisticated artist with great esteem, moved to Amsterdam, where he and his wife had four children. In Amsterdam Willem Kalf developed his flamboyant still life paintings: Compositions became more dense, instead of a large number of objects the painter focussed on just a few especially luxurious motifs, shiny vessels, precious china and exquisite food items. Willem Kalf made ever new arrangements of a selection of such objects. Dark backgrounds, subtle lighting and a stunning illusionism of the surface characterize Willem Kalf's still life paintings in portrait format.
As of 1663 the creative powers of Willem Kalf declined. Houbraken reports that Willem Kalf had shifted focus on the art business. In 1693 Willem Kalf died in Amsterdam.