The Cottage Dooryard by Adriaen van Ostade

The Cottage Dooryard by Adriaen van Ostade (1673)

After looking at the younger of the two brothers, Isack, yesterday I am switching my attention to the elder and more famous brother Adriaen van Ostade.  Adriaen was born in Haarlem in 1610, eleven years before the birth of his brother Isack.  He started off his artistic training at the age of seventeen under the watchful eye of Frans Hals, the Dutch Golden Age painter and great portraitist.   Adriaen Brouwer, the Flemish genre painter was a fellow student of van Ostade.   His father Jan Hendricks Ostade, a weaver by trade, came from Ostade near Eindhoven and although his sons were born in Haarlem they took Ostade as their family name.

At the age of twenty-two he registered as an artist in Utrecht.  At this time Adriaen concentrated on genre painting incorporating village scenes which were very popular with people at that time.  His scenes often depicted animated scenes of peasants partying and fighting in crowded inns and disorderly living rooms.  It is interesting to note that his later paintings depict a more civilised community with people displaying much better behaviour and the interiors of the depicted dwellings began to look more orderly and appealing.  He also started to add more outdoor scenes to his works and in general the atmosphere was lighter and more cheerful.  He returned to Haarlem in 1634 and enrolled in the painter’s guild of the town, the Haarlem Guild of St Luke in which he was later to become its president in 1666 and 1667.  In 1637 he joined the Haarlem Schutterij, a voluntary city guard, sometimes termed a citizen militia, the role of which was to protect the town or city from attack and act in case of revolt or fire.   It is interesting to note that these militiamen were generally drawn from the wealthier families and this could mean that van Ostade was doing well with the sale of his art. 

Adriaen was aged sixty-two in 1672 which was known as the rampjaar, the “disaster year” when his country was plunged into war and was invaded.  He decided to leave Haarlem and so he packed up his belongings and headed for Lübeck.  However on reaching Amsterdam he met an art collector, Konstantyn Sennepart who convinced van Ostade to stay and who offered him lodgings in his house.

We know that van Ostade was highly productive and it is believed that he completed over 800 paintings together with a further two hundred drawings and watercolours.  Besides his own art, he taught young several aspiring artists at his workshop in Haarlem, such as his younger brother Isaack van Ostade, Cornelis Bega and it is believed that he also trained Jan Steen.  Unlike many artists whose popularity only came after their death, Adriaen van Ostade attained considerable popularity during his lifetime and his style and work were often copied by other artists.

My Daily Art Display today features one of Adriaen van Ostade’s later paintings entitled Cottage Dooryard which he painted in 1673 and now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  Before us we see a peasant’s country cottage and its courtyard.  Unlike the dwellings of the more wealthy, this courtyard has neither a manicured garden nor a paved yard.  This is simply a dirt yard.  At the centre of the painting we see the wife seated busily preparing mussels for the family dinner.  She has already done the washing which we see hanging out on the line which is attached to the shed.  On top of the shed we can see some carrots which are drying in the sun, and an old barrel.  Also atop the shed we can see a pigeon coop and by the door there is a shelf which holds beehives.  A mass of clinging vines cascade down from around the eves of the house and the inclusion of the vines is thought to indirectly refer to family unity    Four of her children amuse themselves in the courtyard, two of them playing with their dog whilst another tends the baby.  A hen pecks away happily at the ground searching for a morsel of food and the husband, leaning on the door jamb, looks on.  Although this is a peasant scene, it is a dignified and poignant scene of family life and there is no sign of the bawdy scenes of van Ostade’s earlier genre paintings.  It is a beautiful work of art and I love how van Ostade has incorporated great detail into the painting such as his depiction of the brickwork, the windows with their small glass panes and the floor of the yard

Winter Scene by Isack van Ostade

Winter Scene by Isack von Ostade (c.1646)

Over the next two blogs I am going to take a look at two Flemish artists who besides being highly talented were brothers.   They were the van Ostade brothers.  Today I am going to feature Isack, who was the lesser known of the two, maybe because he only lived to the age of twenty-eight.

Isack van Ostade was born in Haarlem in 1621.  He was a Dutch landscape and genre painter.  Genre paintings were ones depicting scenes of daily life and were particularly popular in 17th century Holland.  Isack and his brother Adriaen, who was eleven years older, were the sons of Jan Hendricx Ostade, a weaver from the town of Ostade, close to the city of Eindhoven.  Despite being born in Haarlem both he and his brother took the name “van Ostade” as their family name.  Isack studied painting under the guidance of his elder brother until he was almost twenty-one years of age at which time he independently set up his artistic business.  He started off painting subjects similar to his brother and his work was always viewed as not as accomplished as the works of Adriaen van Ostade.  Realising this, Isack decided to stop painting the genre scenes and concentrate more on landscape work in the fashion of Salomon van Ruysdael, the Dutch Golden Age landscape artist.

In his earlier paintings the figures were the key feature but in his later works his landscape becomes increasingly significant.  His change to landscape painting paid off and this coupled with his skill at figure painting ensured the popularity of his winter scenes in which we would see groups of animated people in wintery landscape settings.  These winter scenes like my featured painting today, Winter Scene, were his speciality.  He painted this picture around 1645 and it now hangs in the National Gallery in London.  It is quite similar to the painting, Winter Landscape with Wooden Bridge which another Dutch painter, Philips Wouwerman completed fifteen years later.

The painting we see before us is beautifully picturesque and we view the scene from low down which allows us to see the old rickety wooden bridge outlined against a silvery grey winter sky with its dark snow bearing cloud approaching the area.  The scene is populated by peasants.  Some, like the youngsters, are enjoying themselves sledging and skating on the frozen river whilst others, the adults, are hard at work as we see the man encouraging his old white horse to drag the laden cart up the riverbank and we watch old man as he slowly climbs the steps of the bridge, his back straining under his load of firewood.   

Sadly fewer than three dozen winter landscapes of Isack van Ostade are known today.  He died in 1649 at the early age of twenty-eight.  He had few, if any, pupils yet his influence on the succeeding generation of Haarlem painters was great and the likes of Philips Wouwerman  owed a lot to this young man.