Still-life painter, painter, genre painter, flower painter, fruit painter and vase painter
Baptised on 3 November 1619 in Rotterdam, Willem Kalf was a son of Jan Jansz. Kalf and Machtelt Gerrits, both of whom were from Gouda. His father was a well-to-do cloth merchant who held various offices in city government. According to Houbraken, Willem Kalf was a pupil of Hendrick Pot, but this seems to be uncertain. Around 1639/40 he went to Paris, where he is documented in 1642 in the circle of Flemish artists in St Germain-des-Prés. By October 1646 at the latest he had returned to Rotterdam - for how long is uncertain, since his whereabouts in the following years are undocumented. At the time of his marriage on 22 October 1651 he was living in the West Frisian city of Hoorn. His bride, Cornelia Pluvier (ca. 1626-1711), was a cultured woman of many talents who belonged to the circle around Constantijn Huygens; known as a master of calligraphy, she also engraved glassware and dabbled in poetry and music. In 1653 at the latest, the couple settled permanently in Amsterdam, where two sons and two daughters were baptised. In 1653, 1661, 1672 and 1686 Kalf was consulted along with other painters as an authority in the appraisal of paintings. On 21 October 1654 he participated in the major festival of painters and writers in the St Jorisdoelen in Amsterdam. According to Houbraken, towards the end of his life he traded in prints. He died in Amsterdam on 31 July 1693. Kalf's early barn interiors stand in the South Holland-Flemish tradition of Pieter de Bloot, the brothers Herman and Cornelis Saftleven, and Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh in Rotterdam; François Rijckhals in Middelburg and Dordrecht; and David Teniers the Younger in Antwerp. In Paris he concentrated on sumptuous still lifes with gold and silver vessels that are indebted to precedents by Rijckhals and Adriaen van Utrecht. In his Amsterdam years he shifted to sparsely composed ornate still lifes in which he repeatedly rearranged a small number of luxury goods and collectors' objects, including Chinese porcelains, glasses, fruits and shells.