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Monday, March 20, 2017

Lambert Doomer

Hannah brings Samuel to Eli, 1700, Lambert Doomer--
his final painting.
Historians treat people like dogs or horses (take your pick). That's especially true of those dealing primarily with genealogy. They are almost exclusively interested in a person's pedigree. Moreover, this observation is most abundantly true the more a given society is class conscious...meaning mostly European genealogical historians. Art historians are somewhat less so. They have long ago become well aware that art talent, unlike wealth and titles, is far less likely to be inherited. And even in cases where they obviously have been, there's less likelihood that a child will absorb the family art expertise and utilize it in becoming an artist. Unlike managing a family fortune, insofar as art is concerned, there's comparatively little money in it, thus making an artist-father's footsteps less attractive.
An Interior with Peasants Singing and Dancing Around a Table,
1681, Lambert Doomer. (I love the little dancing doggie, lower-right.)
Art historians are much more interested in an artist's academic pedigree. That is, where was he or she trained? Who were the instructors? How influential were they? Were they, in and of themselves, famous? Who did their student or protégé mentor in later years? What influence did they have; and were their students in any way notable. We who write about artists of the past are obliged to dive into all this mundane trivia in that art training, like genes and family nurturing, IS inherited. Perhaps even more than "art genes," academic influences are handed down from generation to generation. The 17th century Dutch painter, Lambert Doomer is a typical case in point.

Lambert Doomer drawing,
Ferdinand Bol (who did study
under Rembrandt).
Lambert Doomer's genealogy is notably irrelevant. His father was a furniture maker named Herman. His mother was Baertje Martens. He was born in 1624, the third of nine children. He grew up in Amsterdam. His father tried to fashion his son into a furniture maker but young Lambert only wanted to draw furniture and other stuff (mostly other stuff). There was a broad range of content in Lambert Doomer's later paintings and drawings, but seldom did they feature furniture. The real question for art historians to try to answer seems to be: did he, or did he not, study under Rembrandt van Rijn?

Herman and Baertje Doomer, 1638, Rembrandt van Rijn
There's ample evidence that he did. In fact, Lambert's father actually built picture frames for Rembrandt. Add to this the fact that Rembrandt painted portraits of Lambert's parents, Herman and Baertje, on the occasion of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary (not uncommon today, but very much so at that time). Their son painted copies of the portraits in 1644. Yet, despite such circumstantial evidence there are no official documents (such as St. Luke's Guild records) to prove conclusively that he studied under Rembrandt. And if he did, why, with that level of mentoring and instruction, is Lambert Doomer virtually unknown as an artist today? He didn't even so much as leave behind a self-portrait (a training exercise Rembrandt would likely have demanded).
The Pont de l' Echellerie in Nantes, Lambert Doomer
In 1648, Doomer continued his art training (such as it was) by traveling to France with a friend, Willem Schellinks (three years younger than he), who later became a landscape painter. Together, they both made extensive drawings of the trip. Their destination was Nantes, where two of Doomer's brothers lived. However, apparently they argued and split up. Some years later, the two embarked on a trip to England. Though both were on the same ship, neither mentioned the other in their journals. Despite his questionable academic pedigree, Doomer seems to have been relatively successful as a painter. In fact, he was sufficiently well-off to have purchased at auction a large number of Rembrandt's drawings and sketchbooks when the Dutch master went bankrupt in 1657. In doing so, Doomer made meticulous copies of those he acquired (which has only served to muddy the water as to whether he was a Rembrandt student).

Portrait of Two Young Girls with a Pet Dog and a doll,
1682, Lambert Doomer.
In 1663 Doomer made a trip down the Rhine traveling as far as Switzerland. It was his last such sojourn. He married in 1668, at the age of forty-four. He and his wife settled in Alkmaar in northern Holland, where he made many drawings. In 1694, near the end of his life, Lambert Doomer moved back to Amsterdam. There he died in the year 1700.

Jeu de la longue Paume (predecessor of tennis).
In the background is Castle Saumur, Lambert Doomer.


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