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Beer in Art #8: Pieter Claesz’ Still Lifes With Beer

Today’s works of art, like last week, also date from the 17th Century and are a trio of still lifes depicting several ordinary objects from daily life, including beer. They’re also by a relatively obscure artist, Pieter Claesz. He was a Dutch still life painter who painted most of his life in Haarlem, though he was born in Westphalia in what today is part of Germany.

The title of the first of today’s painting is Still Life with Overturned Jug, Glass of Beer, and Food, an oil on canvas painted in 1635. In his time, Claesz was considered one of the premiere painters of still life. A few years ago, when the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., did a retrospective of Claesz’ works, they described his contributions like this:

Pieter Claesz, who lived and worked in Haarlem between 1621 and 1660, was one of the most important Dutch still-life painters of the 17th century. Claesz pioneered the development of monochrome table-top still lifes (the so-called monochrome banketjes), quietly restrained works imbued with an extraordinary sense of naturalism. … Claesz reveled in capturing the effects of light and the different textures of objects through his varied handling of paint. He also included objects infused with symbolic implications, indicating that the viewer should reflect upon worldly transience and spiritual truths.

Several years later, in 1649, he painted Still Life With Drinking Vessels, which today is in London’s National Gallery.

The wineglass at the left is a ‘roemer’, and in the centre is an octagonal ‘pas-glas’, containing beer. The porcelain bowl is an example of Chinese export ware which can be dated to the Wanli period (1573 – 1619). The metal objects were most likely made of silver and pewter. Although the arrangement evokes an impression of simplicity and modesty, a contemporary viewer would have immediately recognised the costliness of the different objects.

The final painting, Still Life With Herring, was painted in 1636, and hangs in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in Rotterdam. There’s little information about the painting itself, other than “The stylistic phases and fluctuations in aesthetics through which the Dutch landscape passed had their direct counterpart in still-life. The silvery tone which dominates in this Still-life by Claesz, muting the colours and subtly adjusting the objects to each other, directly relates to the tonal direction landscape took after 1630.” It appears, however, that the glass on the table may be filled with beer.

There is a little more information about Pieter Claesz at Wikipedia, and also some more of his works at the Web Gallery of Art and ArtCyclopedia.


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