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Jan Steen

Painter, genre painter, still-life painter, landscape painter, history painter, portrait painter, draughtsman, etcher, commercial artist and brewer

Born
ca. 1626 in Leiden
Died
1679 in Leiden

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Biography

Born around 1626 in Leiden, Jan Steen was a son of the brewer Havick Steen and Elisabeth Capiteyn. Houbraken relates that his teacher was Jan van Goyen. Weyerman also names Adriaen van Ostade and Nicolaus Knüpfer. While the reference to Ostade squares with the obvious Haarlem influence on the young Steen, Van Goyen's influence is indistinct, and Knüpfer's is seen at most in a few of Steen's later works. Like Rembrandt, Steen had attended Latin school, and he enrolled at Leiden University in November 1646. But he never completed his studies. In March 1648 he joined Leiden's newly founded Guild of St Luke. In early October 1649 he married Margriet, a daughter of Jan van Goyen's. The couple presumably occupied one of Van Goyen's houses in The Hague, where in March 1654 Steen joined a citizens' militia. From 1651 there were dates on his paintings from time to time; this became more frequent in the 1660s. In July 1654 Steen's father rented a brewery for him in Delft, and in the autumn he settled in that city, which was devastated by the explosion of the powder magazine on 12 October. In July 1657 he abandoned his unsuccessful attempt as a brewer. In the spring of 1658 he paid dues to the painters' guild in Leiden, where he again lived for a time. In 1660 he resided in the village of Warmond, near Leiden. Later that year he settled in Haarlem, where he joined the painters' guild in 1661. In 1669 his wife died, leaving him with six children. After the deaths of his mother (1669) and father (1670), he returned to Leiden and moved into his parents' house, which he had inherited. After the outbreak of war with France in 1672, he set up a pub in the house ('De Vreede'). Frans van Mieris, Arie de Vois and Quiringh van Brekelenkam are said to have been frequent guests. From 1670 until his death he was again a member of Leiden's painters' guild, serving as chairman in 1671 and 1672 and dean in 1674. In April 1673 he married the penniless widow Maria van Egmond, who already had two children and would bear him another. He was buried in Leiden on 3 February 1679. Steen is famous for his narrative-rich genre painting, in which he depicts idleness and vice with a friendly wink. In addition to comic scenes - into which he frequently inserted his own portrait - he occasionally also illustrated biblical and mythological subjects. There are a few portraits in his oeuvre as well. Extremely receptive, he assimilated the most varied contemporary models, like the Ostade brothers and Gerard ter Borch, and also referred to the earlier art of Italy (Raphael) and the Netherlands (Pieter Bruegel), which he came to know from prints.

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