Jan Steen (The Netherlands, about 1626-79)



Figure 1.-- Jan Steen left a substantial body of work which are a wonderful source of information on Dutch life in the 17th century. His work is specially interesting to HBC because he commonly included children in his paintings. Steen's work is destinguished by the fact that Steen seems to have made no effort to clean up a home or other scene that he painted. Rather he seems to have painted scenes as they actually were. His scenes are busy and often cluttered. The Dutch even have an expression, Ďa Jan Steen home'. Here we see Steen's depiction of "The Village School" painted about 1665. Like his home scenes, this school scene provides us wonderful detail about a Dutch school class.

Jan was born in Leiden about 1626. He is often known by different names, including Jan Havickszoon Steen. Little is known about his childhood an early life. He studied under Adriaen van Ostade. He is a noted genre painter of the Broque era. His paintings are a wonderful source of information on Dutch life in the 17th century. Steen's work is destinguished by the fact that Steen seems to have made no effort to clean up a home or other scene that he painted. Rather he seems to have painted scenes as they actually were. His scenes are busy and often cluttered. Now I supose it is possible that he added clutter, but that to us seems improbable. We think rather he has left us some wonderful realistic scenes. Many of his paintings are the interior scenes of Dutch homes, but there is at least one school scene. Steen himself like to create images that make a moral point, often using popular Dutch expressions. His paintings are fun to look at as there is so much going on and he paints clothing, furniture, and household items in such detail. He was the son-in-law of Jan van Goyen, another Dutch painter.

Identity

He is often known by different names, including Jan Havickszoon Steen.

Parents


Childhood

Jan was born in Leiden about 1626. Little is known about his childhood an early life.

Education

Steen studied under Adriaen van Ostade.

Career

Steen worked in several different Dutch cities, an interesting fact because quite a few artists are associated wuth one specific cities. an attitude probably stimulated by his frequent moves between Dutch cities. Steen was a prolific artist (although the quality of his work varies greatly), and, as well as his many genre pieces,he particularly excelled in the depiction of children. At the end of his life he produced paintings that foreshadow the Rococo idylls of 18th-century artists.

Body of Work

Steen is a noted genre painter of the Broque era. While genre work was his forte, he also painted biblical and mythological subjects and portraits. Steen is not the most gifted drawer of the Dutch artists and he often appears to have worled very rapidly. There are substantial differences in the quality of his work in different pauntings. He is one of the most valuable to social historians. He left a substantial body of work which are a wonderful source of information on Dutch life in the 17th century. His work is specially interesting to HBC because he commonly included children in his paintings. Steen's work is destinguished by the fact that Steen seems to have made no effort to clean up a home or other scene that he painted. Rather he seems to have painted scenes as they actually were. His scenes are busy and often cluttered. The Dutch even have an expression, Ďa Jan Steen home'. Now I supose it is possible that he added clutter, but that to us seems improbable. We think rather he has left us some wonderful realistic scenes. Many of his paintings are the interior scenes of Dutch homes, but there is at least one school scene. Steen himself like to create images that make a moral point, often using popular Dutch expressions. His paintings are fun to look at as there is so much going on and he paints clothing, furniture, and household items in such detail.

Easy Come, Easy Go (1661)

Steen painted, "Easy Come, Easy Go" in 1661. Here is typical Steen clutter--glasses on the floor, shells scattered about, a half peeled fruit, table clothes pulled back, ect. Steen gives us a view inside a rich man's home. I am not sure precisely what is going on here. As best I can make out the rich man is eating oysters. Why he is eating with his family, any why it is titled "Easy Come, Easy Go" I do not know. In the foreground a boy is the boy filling a pitcher, I assume with wine. It is not clear if this is his son or a servant boy.

The Village School (about 1665)

Steen left us a wonder look a Dutch education in the 17th century (figure 1). It was titled "The Village School" and painted about 1665. It is exibited in the National Gallery of Irleand, Dublin. Like many of Steen'w work, it is not immeditely apparent what is going on here. The boy is being punished, but were are sure why. Perhaps he was misbehaving. But note the torn paper on the floor, surely that has something to do with his punishment. Perhaps his work was sloppy. Paper was very expensive at the time. Most of the work of younger children would have been done on slates or boards. Notice the boy at the back, he looks to be hanging one of these boards on the wall, perhaps at the end of the day. Even so we can see boys at the benches using paper and another boy looks to about to hand in his work. Steen's depiction also shows how the children were dressed. Notably there seems to be both boys and girls in the class. The boy seems to be wearing a kind of apron covering his clothes. bout all we can make out is his white collar, long stockings, and strap shoes. Notice the absence of blue in the garments. A HBC reader is interested in the origins of strap shoes. These strap shoes are a style that we have seen throughout Europe. Our reader writes, "I see how the three straps of the t-strap shoes were fastened with strings (early shoe laces?). On the fancier ones the "t" is covered by a large bow or pom pom (there is a name for the pom pom which I don't remember)." HBC is not convinced that modern strap shoes evolved from these 17th century shoes, but it certainly merits consideration.

Family

Steen was the son-in-law of Jan van Goyen, another Dutch painter.








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Created: 3:19 AM 11/12/2005
Last updated: 3:19 AM 11/12/2005