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Amsterdam School

During the Baroque era, the harbour city of Amsterdam was a lively and diverse metropolis. Before the arrival of Rembrandt in 1631, the city’s most important portraitist was Thomas de Keyser (c. 1596-1667). De Keyser worked in a more rational style than Frans Hals in neighbouring Harlem. But he was soon overshadowed by Rembrandt from Leiden, who was much celebrated in Amsterdam, and dominated the local schools and style, gaining many followers. Amsterdam nonetheless produced other masters, particularly specialists. In 1657, Otto Marseus van Schrieck (c.1619/20-78), previously a member of the Schildersbent group, moved to Amsterdam, where he executed his still-life portraits of swamp and forest floors, inhabited by all manner of creature. Willem Kalf (1619-93), moved to Amsterdam in 1653, and became of the city’s most important masters of grand still life painting. Kalf’s Amsterdam works are playful, mostly portrait-format arrangements of luxury items of the 17th century, which reflected the prosperity of the bourgeoisie. Set against a dark ground, the colours light up the noble victuals and vessels, which are alive with light reflections. Kalf was sometimes referred to as the ‘Vermeer of Still Life’, and his magnificent, carefully composed and subtly lit still life works, captivate with their very special painterly delicacy, and occasionally moral subtexts.