Pieter de Hooch

Dutch Baroque Painter and Draftsman

1629 - 1684

Portrait of Pieter de Hooch

When I came upon Pieter de Hooch, it was not his talent as an artist or an interest in Baroque Art that initially intrigued me about this man. For those of you who don't know me this may sound a little strange, but it was his name that immediately grabbed my attention. I found a unique pleasure in the fact that there was this Seventeenth Century artist named 'Hooch'. This won't be as lengthy or involved as some of my other pages but you will be introduced to a man named Pieter de Hooch.

Senex Magister
aka 'The Hoocher Man

Pieter de Hooch, also spelled "Hoogh" or "Hooghe") was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style.

De Hooch was born in Rotterdam to Hendrick Hendricksz de Hooch, a bricklayer, and Annetge Pieters, a midwife. He was the eldest of five children and outlived all of his siblings. He studied art in Haarlem under the landscape painter, Nicolaes Berchem. Beginning in 1650, he worked as a painter and servant for a linen-merchant and art collector named Justus de la Grange. His service for the merchant required him to accompany him on his travels to The Hague, Leiden, and Delft, to which he eventually moved. It is likely that de Hooch handed over most of his works to la Grange during this period in exchange for board and other benefits, as this was a common commercial arrangement for painters at the time, and a later inventory recorded that la Grange possessed eleven of his paintings.

De Hooch was married in Delft in 1654 to Jannetje van der Burch, by whom he fathered seven children. While in Delft, de Hooch is also believed to have learned from the painters Carel Fabritius and Nicolaes Maes, who were both early members of the Delft School. He became a member of the painters' guild of Saint Luke in 1655, and had moved to Amsterdam by 1661.

The early work of de Hooch, like most young painters of his time, was mostly composed of scenes of soldiers in stables and taverns, though he used these to develop great skill in light, color, and perspective rather than to explore an interest in the subject matter. After beginning his family in the mid-1650s, he switched his focus to domestic scenes and family portraits. His work showed astute observation of the mundane details of everyday life while also functioning as well-ordered morality tales. These paintings often exhibited a sophisticated and delicate treatment of light similar to those of Vermeer, who lived in Delft at the same time as de Hooch. Nineteenth Century art historians had assumed that Vermeer had been influenced by de Hooch's work, but the opposite is now believed.

Though he began to paint for wealthier patrons in Amsterdam, he lived in the poorest areas of the city. Around this time, de Hooch's painting style became coarser and darker in color, and his simple domestic scenes were replaced by highly-decorated images set in palatial halls and country villas. Most scholars believe that de Hooch's work after around 1670 became more stylized and deteriorated in quality. It has been surmised that this was in part due to deteriorating health; de Hooch died in 1684 in an Amsterdam insane asylum, though how he came to be there is unrecorded.

The Bedroom: 1658-60

Hooch's painting depicts a positive ideal of the Dutch household: a clean space for a woman's domestic work, performed before a quiet child and without the interference from men - or animals.

Couple with Parrot: 1668

Pieter de Hooch's painting belongs to the 'haute-bourgeois' genre. Through an anteroom we see a tidy living room with an elegantly clothed couple. The man is opening the cage with the parrot and the woman is enticing the bird out with a wine glass. These are clearly erotic symbols which indicate that the young woman is about to be seduced into an affair.

The Card-Players: 1663-65

In the period between 1654 and 1665, when de Hooch was living in Delft, he created such works as The Card-Player, leaning heavily on the influence of Vermeer and the Rembrandt student Carel Fabritius. Although a certain tendency towards sumptuous interiors and elegant society is already evident here, the compositional organization is charming, and the architecture of the room with its checkerboard tiles heightening the sense of depth and perspective, is rendered with painstaking precision.

When de Hooch moved to Amsterdam in I667 where he moved in high circles, his interiors became increasingly elegant, and his simple "households" were gradually replaced by palatial interiors. At the same time, the portrayal began to lose its precision and the vitality of the Dutch genre painting began to fade. His paintings also began to lose the strong color values so aptly described by Eugene Fromentin, a 19th century painter as follows: "The subtlety of Metsu and the enigma of Pieter de Hooch depend on there being much more air around the objects, shadow around the light, stability in volatile colours, blending of hues, pure invention in the portrayal of things, in a word: the most wonderful handling of light and shade there has ever been . . ."

Company Making Music

The Courtyard of a House in Delft: 1658

Pieter de Hooch, born in Rotterdam in 1629 and trained in the Haarlem studio of the landscape painter Nicolaes Berchem, came to Delft in 1652. In the following year he was said to be in the service - both as a servant and a painter - of Justus de la Grange, a cloth merchant. De Hooch married in Delft in May 1654 and joined the painters' guild in September 1655. He remained in the town until 1661, when he moved to Amsterdam. In his early years De Hooch had painted scenes of soldiers and guardrooms but after his move to Delft turned to genre scenes showing young men and women eating, drinking, playing musical instruments and flirting in well-appointed interiors. These are based on actual rooms in the houses of prosperous Delft citizens, carefully described in an effective empirical perspective.

The earliest dated examples of De Hooch's Delft interiors are from 1658. He also painted a small number of closely related exterior scenes of which this painting, also from 1658, is the most outstanding example. It is unlikely to be a precisely accurate view as De Hooch used many of the same architectural elements in a second painting, also dated 1658, in which the right-hand side of the painting - where the maid and the child stand - was transformed to show a bower constructed with trellis-work beneath which two seated men and a standing woman drink and smoke. Both compositions are presumably based on quiet corners of Delft with which De Hooch was familiar. These and other paintings of De Hooch's Delft years evoke a world of quiet, domestic contentment, of pleasure taken in the performance of simple household tasks and in the appearance of well-ordered surroundings. It is an art which celebrates simple virtues, the efficient running of the home and the conscientious raising of children.

Drinkers in the Bower: 1658

Dutch Family: ca 1662

At the Linen Closet: 1665

Pieter de Hooch had moved from Delft to Amsterdam by 15 April 1661, when one of his daughters was baptized in the Westerkerk. In his Amsterdam years his domestic interiors became richer and his compositions more complex. His technique becomes progressively cruder and his late paintings often contain clumsy figure drawings and a coarse palette. In a painting such as this one, however, from his early years in Amsterdam, De Hooch applies the delicate technique of his Delft scenes to grander Amsterdam interiors.

Here a classical statuette stands over the pilastered doorway and the woman and her maid take clean linen from an ornate 'kast' inlaid with ebony and surmounted by porcelain. In the background a child playfully wields a 'kolf' stick. Paintings such as these accurately show the details of Dutch interiors of the period and it is interesting to see a portrait in an elaborately carved gilt frame hanging alongside a landscape in a simple ebony frame. Through the open door, we can glimpse the buildings on the other side of the canal.

Woman Reading a Letter: 1664

Pieter de Hooch depicts for us incidents in the daily lives of women at home with their children: the mother watching over the cradle, serving her family at table, reading a letter or working in her kitchen. Some of his paintings show guests arriving in a spotlessly clean room or courtyard, taking a glass of wine, listening to music or conversing together. The keynote of every single picture is an intimate simplicity; the painter conducts us into a calm and quiet world, both clean and orderly, inhabited by the well-to-do. Patrons, whose preference was for something livelier, for gay and colorful peasant scenes, bought pictures by the Ostades, Jan Steen or Jan Miense Molenaer, but de Hooch was popular in the narrower circle of those who appreciated his distinctive approach and delicacy of execution. The magic of his works lies not so much in his subjects as in the means by which he interpreted them: the lucid and balanced composition, the feeling of space and the warm glow of his colors.

The sunlight streaming through the window suggests early afternoon. Reflected light and soft shadows are intermingled on the Oriental rug spread over the table, the leather-backed chairs, the curtain and the lead-framed window-panes. It seems as if the quiet would be hardly broken by any sounds from far or near. The act of reading by the young woman sitting in a corner of the room is just as objectively portrayed. The atmosphere of intimacy is absolute, emanating alike from the lady and the objects included in the composition.

The Morning of a Young Man

Card Players at a Table: 1670-74

In the interior of a grand house, a group of figures are gathered around a table playing a game of cards. The officer in the right foreground shows his hand of cards looking directly out of the picture as he does so, seemingly acknowledging the presence of the viewer and inviting us to watch the course of the game. The seated female figure is carefully considering the next card she will play while the sumptuously attired woman on the left has sprung from her chair, caught up in the excitement of it all. A canal-side scene, bathed in warm summer sunlight can be glimpsed through the doorway to the right and provides a contrast to the more animated proceedings at the table.

This genre scene was painted in the artist's Amsterdam period but it has its origin in the interiors that De Hooch began to paint in Delft in the mid-1650's.

The Mother: ca 1660

Mother Lacing Her Bodice beside a Cradle: 1659-60

The glory of de Hooch's genre painting is largely found in his enchanting representations of homely scenes in which a mother or maid and a child appear in an interior or a courtyard in some domestic occupation. These works, which express Dutch ideals of caring for children and the home, strike a tender note, free from sentimentality. They help us understand why his reputation is unshakable. Children play an important role in his pictures; it will be recalled, Vermeer, the father of fifteen, never painted a child.

This painting shows some influence of the Rembrandt School, in the warmth and depth of the coloring, in the golden tonality, in the broad treatment of the figures, and in the impasto passage on the white fur. The intense reddish-orange of the woman's bodice, of the skirt hanging on the wall, and of the cradle cover are contrasted with the blue and grey in her coat, the bed curtain, the floor tiles, and the jug on the right.

De Hooch's use of the 'doorkijkje', the device also employed by Nicolaes Maes of opening the vista from one room to another, and then again from there into the street is not a mere play with perspective; in his paintings it adds a pictorial and psychological note of some significance. De Hooch sensed that in daily life one often experiences a pleasant relief when a relationship between indoor and outdoor space is established by the widened outlook and by the enrichment of light and atmosphere which it brings. In his refinement of the 'doorkijkje' device, as well as in other respects, de Hooch shows his own character.

Musical Party in a Courtyard: 1677

Woman Peeling Apples: ca 1663

Soon after de Hooch's move to Amsterdam his works gain a little more in power and body, and his color and chiaroscuro increase in warmth. This is seen in the full character of the figures in the Woman Peeling Apples with its concentration on the motif close to the spectator without side views. The painting recalls Vermeer's paintings of one or two figures in a lighted corner of a room, and is theme of a woman watched by a child as she works at a simple kitchen task is related to Maes's depictions of household activities. Yet de Hooch's painting is unmistakably his own; his ability to suggest the intensity and flow of light is undiminished, and the relationship between the woman and child absorbed in their simple activities retains human charm and naturalness.

Suckling Mother and Maid: 1670-75

Card Players in a Sunlit Room: 1658

The painting is signed with the artist's initials and dated lower right on the bench: P.D.H./1658. The picture was painted in Delft where the artist is recorded in 1652, and where he remained until 1661. From these years date the first works in De Hooch's fully mature style. The move from Rotterdam, where he had lived previously, coincided with a change in subject matter and a new approach to composition. Where before the artist had been preoccupied with rustic settings, the paintings in Delft concentrate more on bourgeois society seen in the context of well-ordered and strikingly lit interiors or carefully observed outdoor scenes.

These new developments in De Hooch's oeuvre were most probably inspired by local artists in Delft such as Carel Fabritius, Gerard Houckgeest and Emanuel de Witte, who were principally architectural painters interested in creating new illusionistic effects through the application of perspective. The View of Delft by Fabritius (National Gallery, London) stands as testimony to the form these early experiments took, just as A Lady at the Virginals by Vermeer shows the style brought to an unrivalled degree of perfection. De Hooch played a prominent part in the creation of the Delft school of painting. No earlier works had so successfully applied a cogent perspective system to the naturalistic representation of genre themes in secular spaces.

Several other paintings, also of outstanding quality, date from the same year as Card Players in a Sunlit Room including A Girl drinking with Two Soldiers (Paris, Louvre), A Soldier paying a Hostess (Marquess of Bute's collection) and The Courtyard of a House in Delft with a Woman and a Child (London, National Gallery). The mood of these pictures is calm and reflective, the actions of the figures restrained, and the rhythms languorous. There is a concentration on detail, as, for example, in the depiction of the playing cards, the raised glass and the broken pipe on the floor, in the lower right corner, which clearly absorbed the artist and enthralls the viewer. Such details help to create an atmosphere that is almost palpable in its freshness. The mother-of-pearl tone of the picture is enhanced by the use of pale colors against a grey ground, assisted by blending them with white.

The view through from the shadowy interior to the sunlit courtyard in the middle distance allows De Hooch to exploit his skill in the handling of light as it falls over the different surfaces. This is particularly apparent in the rendering of the translucent curtains and the panes of glass, as well as the way in which light helps to define the forms of the figures.

If the overall visual effect of the picture is one of a highly wrought finish, this is to some extent belied by the surprisingly broad handling of paint, particularly in the figures, and the almost matter-of-fact laying in of the squares on the tiled floor. Under-drawing is visible for the layout of the floor, and several compositional changes can be detected: for instance, the man drinking to the left of the group playing cards was originally given a hat. Unlike certain Dutch paintings of this type, De Hooch seems to have made no use of symbolism. The painting hung high on the wall on the right surely does not have a hidden meaning, but the broken pipe and the playing cards are perhaps open to interpretation.

The painting remained in Holland until the early nineteenth century. In 1823 the dealer, C. J. Nieuwenhuys, stated that 'its novelty awakened the attention of collectors both in France and England.' Two years later it is first recorded in England. Finally, it was acquired by Lord Farnborough for George IV in 1827.

Village House: ca 1665

Young Woman Drinking: 1658

This work dates from Pieter de Hooch's best period, 1654-62, when he worked in Delft. During these years he painted tranquil scenes of bourgeois domesticity and conversation pieces set in clearly lit interiors, courtyards, or small gardens. His subtle construction of space in depth and his refined use of lighting create an almost lyrical effect, and his style directly anticipates that of Vermeer.

Woman and Maid: ca 1657

This is one of the best paintings by Hooch. It is assumed that the model of the maid was Hooch's wife.

Woman and Maid in a Courtyard: ca 1660

This work dates from Pieter de Hooch's best period, 1654-62, when he worked in Delft. During these years he painted tranquil scenes of bourgeois domesticity and conversation pieces set in clearly lit interiors, courtyards, or small gardens. His subtle construction of space in depth and his refined use of lighting create an almost lyrical effect, and his style directly anticipates that of Vermeer.

Pieter de Hooch has gone down in art history as a painter who rendered Dutch domestic life with great precision. The private everyday life of the bourgeoisie in all its ordered tranquility, a world whose calm is never shattered by any sensational event, is the subject of his works. De Hooch opens a window on narrow alleyways, small gardens and courtyards, and gives us a glimpse into the antechambers and living-rooms of the Dutch citizens. Like Jan Vermeer, de Hooch specialized in the portrayal of interiors.

Yet, whereas the paintings of Vermeer tend to be dominated by a self-absorbed figure pausing momentarily in some activity, de Hooch's paintings are dominated by the room itself, by its perspectives and views through doors and windows where people become an integral part of the interior. Light is an important factor, especially daylight, as in the work of Vermeer, with its refractions and reflections adding vitality to the rooms. Whereas people and animals interpose in their activities, light itself becomes the active element, permeating and moving over walls, floors and tiles, illuminating objects or casting them in shadow.

Like Vermeer, de Hooch also draws upon religious paintings, translating them into scenes of everyday life. His painting of the housewife and her maid cleaning fish in a neat backyard, for example, recalls the topos of the Virgin Mary in the hortus conclusus. Rooms flooded with light take on aspects of the Annunciation or recall Jan van Eyck's Madonna in a Church Interior, lit by stained glass windows.

A Woman Drinking with Two Men and a Serving Woman: ca 1658

Paying the Hostess: 1658

Soldiers Playing Cards: ca 1657-58

The Visit: ca 1657

A Man Offering a Glass of Wine to a Woman: ca 1654-55

Two Soldiers and a Serving Woman with a Trumpeter: ca 1654-55

A Dutch Courtyard: ca 1659-60

Woman with a Child in a Pantry: ca 1660

Source: Web Gallery of Art

Source: Art Renewal Center

This page is the work of Senex Magister

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