The quack, after Adriaen van Ostade
A quack doctor selling his medicines by a tent near a tree; a group of peasants, a man, a woman and three children, gather around his makeshift stall, copy in reverse of the etching by Adriaen van Ostade. Anonymous mezzotint produced between 1667-1743. The image is 23,5 x 16,5 cm, the sheet is 36,6 x 28 cm, the print is in good condition.
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Adriaen van Ostade (christened Haarlem, 10 December 1610 – there, 28 April 1685) is one of the most important Dutch painters of the golden age. In addition to being a painter, he was an engraver and draftsman. Van Ostade belongs to the Dutch School. Adriaen van Ostade was the eldest son of Jan Hendricx Ostade, who came from the hamlet of Ostade in today’s Asten. Both Adriaen and his brother Isaac took the name “Van Ostade” when they became painters. Van Ostade married at the age of 28. His wife died in 1640, after which Adriaen van Ostade remarried. In 1666 he became a widower again. Haarlem was one of the most important and prosperous cities of Holland in the Golden Age. The flourishing and freedom of the city attracted many Flemish and Dutch painters, which strengthened Haarlem as an art city. According to Houbraken, Adriaen van Ostade was taught by Frans Hals, at the same time as Adriaen Brouwer. Van Ostade mainly painted the poor layer of the population. He preferably portrayed the peasants and villagers cheerfully dancing, partying and fighting, and at the same time aroused admiration and horror in his time. Van Ostade derived this theme from the writers of that time such as Bredero, from his example the painter Pieter Bruegel and from his immediate surroundings. He combined the raw, realistic tradition of Bruegel with the exuberant style of his teacher Frans Hals: in the early years in particular, his paintings contained a palette of small, ugly caricatures that rags on alcohol and tobacco. From the outset, Van Ostade’s canvases were cheerful and he regularly painted caricatures to mock the exuberant lives of farmers and villagers. He also experimented with strong light-dark contrasts. It is a movement in time, in which Rembrandt excels most. A clear example of the ‘clair-obscur’ is a work from 1635, ‘partying farmers in a barn’, the bright lighting of the main group, the sparse-lit space and the dark objects in the foreground (the ‘repoussoir’) are characteristic of that period of time. In the first years Van Ostade mainly used many gray and brown shades in his canvases, economically supplemented with pale red, purple and blue. After 1640, Van Ostade’s compositions became calmer and the lighting effect warmer. The paintings show more respect for the subject. The farmers and villagers still drink and dance, but it is not a caricature. Van Ostade appears to have been influenced in style by Rembrandt during this period. Sometimes Van Ostade even takes over a subject such as the “proclamation to the shepherds” (1640). At the time, he also painted a few landscapes that match the monochrome style of Haarlem. But landscapes clearly do not arouse passion in Adriaen van Ostade. Van Ostade changed style again after 1650: he felt the urge for perfection. Van Ostade is a gifted atmosphere painter (“tonalist”) and composition painter, who combines his far-reaching detail with a strong sense of space and light. The colors remain reserved: grays, blue gray and brown. He creates depth effect by painting figures in the background a little fainter in hue. The canvas ‘A painter in his studio’ (1663) is one of his most sensitive paintings from that period in terms of light treatment, which moreover gives a good impression of the habitat of the seventeenth-century painter: the painter behind his easel, next to him the bottles with oil and turpentine, trays, dishes and brushes on the couch. In the background the student is rubbing paint. The poor appearance did not relate to Van Ostade’s studio: he was already a wealthy man through painting. At the end of his life, Van Ostade shifts his attention to producing engravings (which was a lucrative trade) and his canvases flatter.