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Abraham Bloemaert

Painter, Draughtsman and Copperplate engraver

1566 in Gorinchem
1651 in Utrecht

12 Works by Abraham Bloemaert


On Christmas Eve 1566, Abraham Bloemaert was born in Gorinchem to the sculptor and architect Cornelis Bloemaert and his wife Aeltgen Willems. After his mother's death, the family moved to Utrecht in 1576. There Abraham received instruction in painting from various teachers, though none of them left a lasting influence on him. In 1581 or 1582 he journeyed to Paris, worked there with the painters "Lehan de Bassot" and "Maistre Herry", who are not further documented, and ended his studies together with Hieronymus Franck. Some three years later, Bloemaert returned to Utrecht and probably worked with his father, whom he followed to Amsterdam in 1591. There he set up his first workshop and made contact with patrons and champions who would prove supportive even later. In the following year he married Judith van Schonenburch, who came from a wealthy Catholic family from Utrecht. After his father's death in 1593, Bloemaert returned to Utrecht, and in the saddlemakers' guild, to which painters were assigned at the time, assumed the office of dean. After the death of his first wife, Bloemaert married Gerarda de Rooij, the daughter of a wealthy brewer, in 1600. Of their numerous children, the sons Hendrick, Cornelis, Adriaen, and Frederick took up artistic careers like their father, from whom they probably received their training. Bloemaert and Paulus Moreelse were the most important teachers in Utrecht's 'Academy', founded in 1612. The family's affluence is indicated by the purchase of a large, expensive house next to the Mariakerkhof. This was the centre of Utrecht's Catholic community. As a professed Catholic, Bloemaert received commissions not only from other Catholics in Utrecht, but also from the Jesuits and other patrons in the southern Netherlands. Yet his denomination prevented him from having an active role in Utrecht city politics. In 1618 he had to resign as elected dean of the painters' guild when the Counter-Remonstrants assumed power in the city. His high regard is indicated by visits from important figures: in 1625 he met Elisabeth Stuart, former queen of Bohemia, and in the following year Peter Paul Rubens. Abraham Bloemaert died in his home town in January 1651, and was buried in the Catharijnekerk. His work became widely known thanks to his sons Frederick and Cornelis, who worked as engravers. His book of sketches was still being used as the basis for artistic training in Utrecht into the nineteenth century. Besides Cornelis van Poelenburch, his most important pupils included Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerard van Honthorst, and Jan van Bijlert, who made Utrecht the centre of Caravaggism in the Netherlands.

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