Pieter de Hooch, Louvre

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Woman Drinking With Soldiers...Pieter de Hooch, Louvre
Woman Drinking With Soldiers…Pieter de Hooch, Louvre

Pieter de Hooch (1617-1684) was a painter during the Dutch Golden Age. The painting shown above is titled “Woman Drinking With Soldiers” done in 1658 at the Louvre. 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. The interiors are minutely painted, the figures seem to be less important than the environment in which they are painted. His works are subtly illuminated with lateral sources of light and often feature a series of rooms leading from one to the next.

Woman Preparing Vegetables in the Rear of the House...Pieter de Hooch, Louvre
Woman Preparing Vegetables in the Rear of the House…Pieter de Hooch, Louvre

After starting his family in the mid-1650s, he switched his focus to domestic scenes and family portraits as shown above in “Woman Preparing Vegetables in the Rear of the House” done in 1657. 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. 19th century art historians had assumed that Vermeer had been influenced by de Hooch’s work, but the opposite is now believed. I believe that there might have been a mutual influence between Vermeer and de Hooch.

Courtyard of a House in Delft. Pieter de Hooch
Courtyard of a House in Delft. Pieter de Hooch

The colors of Hooch in his later years became more transparent, without losing the warm tones as seen in the painting above drawn from Wikipedia, “Courtyard of a House in Delft” done in 1658.

He was certainly a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style. During his time in Delft, from 1653 to 1661, Pieter de Hooch was deeply influenced by the color and strict lines of the art of Carel Fabritius, who also influenced Vermeer. The comparison sort of ends there, Vermeer invites us into the room with intimate portraits while Hooch lets us peer into a beautiful window. His personal style proved a success, basing his compositions on a colorful, artful use of perspective, with figures fitting harmoniously into the overall scheme.

Pieter de Hooch was born in Rotterdam in 1617, the son of a mason and a midwife. His career as a painter started in Delft. As was usual in his day, he had a day job, he was an assistant to a linen merchant. De Hooch specialised in decorous interiors with merry companies of people. Views through windows or corridors into other, distant rooms often featured in his work. Like other Dutch genre painters, De Hooch sometimes gave his interiors hidden messages.

The Card Players. Pieter de Hooch, Louvre
The Card Players. Pieter de Hooch, Louvre

After moving to Amsterdam in 1661, De Hooch’s domestic groups tended to become increasingly elegant and affluent. The painting shown above, “The Card Players” from (about 1663-1665) in the Louvre is an example. His works began depicting the contrived luxury of the homes of the wealthy bourgeoisie. The splendor of the garments worn by the elegant figures is matched by the richness of the setting, with the red-and-blue marble fireplace, the rich fabric of the exotic tapestries, and the walls hung with gilded leather skins.The lines of the marble floor tiles draw the viewer’s attention to the vanishing lines of the painting. The spatial elements opening onto the exterior-windows and half-open doors-are punctuated by a contrasting play of light, accentuating the lines and volumes.

De Hooch eventually died in Amsterdam’s Dolhuis (madhouse). When this happened is not known for certain.