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Adriaen Brouwer

Adriaen Brouwer

*  1605 Oudenaerde
† 1638 Antwerpen

Adriaen Brouwer, the great master of the "small genre" the genre of peasant scenes, was born in either 1605 or 1606, presumably in the Flemish town of Oudenaerde. There is proof for his activities as a young man in neighboring Holland (1626 and 1627, Haarlem and Amsterdam). Whether Adriaen Brouwer was indeed a student of Frans Hals, as claimed by Houbraken, is questionable.
In the early 1630s Adriaen Brouwer was back in the southern Dutch provinces, because in 1631/32 he was master of the Antwerp St. Luke painters´ gild. It seems Adriaen Brouwer stayed there, as documents from that time on often mention Antwerp. These documents often record his debts and there is also proof for a prison sentence in 1632, which is why Adriaen Brouwer, who died a young age, has become such a fabled artist. Earlier art history was inclined to ascribe the attributes of his preferred motifs to him personally – smoking and drinking cardplayers in inns.
In Antwerp, however, it seems that Adriaen Brouwer was rather in artist circles than in peasant surroundings: There is proof for a friendship between Adriaen Brouwer and the engraver Paulus Pontius, it seems the friendship was so close that he even lived with him in 1634. He was also in contact with Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Jan Lievens. That his genre scenes were treasured by other artists is proven by the fact that Adriaen Brouwer´s contemporary Peter Paul Ruben was in possession of not less than 17 of his paintings.
Adriaen Brouwer presumably also led a workshop. Someone by the name of Jan Dandoy was said to have been his student, perhaps also some Joos van Craesbeeck. What is for sure is that his oeuvre had quite some influence on a number of artists in those days, among them Adriaen van Ostade, David Teniers the Younger, David Rijkaert III, Gillis van Tilborgh as well as Pieter de Bloot.
It is very difficult to grasp the complete range and chronology of paintings by Adriaen Brouwer, small oil paintings with paesant scenes or landscapes, due to lack of signature and date and a great number of copies. Early works show a strong local coloring, as it was characteristic for Haarlem art in the 1620s. Over the course of his artistic development, Adriaen Brouwer subdued the local coloring and became an immensely subtle master of colors. Pictures in a blue or blue-greenish basic tone were made in the 1630s, followed by paintings with a brownish note. What they all have in common are the strong and vivid accents. Later works show an increased psychological emphasis of the mimic, taking the mere genre illustration to a representation of affect.
Adriaen Brouwer was also a poised drawer with a spontaneous hand. Even Rembrandt owned, along with seven paintings, two drawings by Brouwer. Clear attributions, however, are difficult, as Egbert van Heemskerck and Philips Koninck had a similar style.
In 1638 Adriaen Brouwer died at a young age in Antwerp.