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Friday, October 18, 2013

Jan van de Cappelle

Home Fleet Saluting the State Barge, 1650, Jan van de Cappelle
Jan van de Cappelle, 1650, Franz Hals
Fortunate is the artist who is not forced to rely on the sale of his or her work in order to survive. Since my retirement some fifteen years ago, I've been a member of that meager group. Although I do, occasionally sell my work, I no longer promote myself (except like now) nor push my work toward the public beyond my Website. Although not independently wealthy, I am quite independent and becoming more so with every passing day (or so my wife insists). Surprisingly, there are few such artists in the annuls of art history numbered among the great. Paul Cezanne was one. Gustave Caillebotte was another. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec came from a wealthy family and could probably be said to fit into this category. Beyond those, I can think of no others at the moment. There's a lot to be said for monetary needs as an incentive to paint. By the same token, freedom from such worries has been known to allow artists to experiment with their work, free from the consequences of failure. Cezanne did a lot of this type of thing.

Shipping in a Calm at Flushing with a States General Yacht, 1649, Jan van de Cappelle
Though not particularly famous, Jan van de Cappelle, a Dutch Golden Age painter, born in 1626, neatly fits into the above category. His father owned a dyeing business which Jan helped manage, and eventually inherited. Actually, one might be tempted to say Jan van de Cappelle fits a little too neatly into the "freedom from want" category of painters, to the point some critics and historians count him merely as a talented amateur. His lifetime body of work is said to have numbered around 700, though fewer then 150 paintings survive that have been firmly attributed to him. However those same critics and art historians also consider van de Cappelle the best marine landscape painter of the Golden Age. That means van de Cappelle painted ships on the water better than just about anyone. Except for a few rather raw, bleak winter landscapes (below), that's virtually all he painted. That might seem odd to artists today, but Dutch artists of the that bright Golden Age (the 1600s) were extremely specialized. Aelbert Cuyp, for instance, also painted a few ships, but mostly he specialized in cows and fowls.
Winter Landscape with Kolf Players, 1653, Jan van de Cappelle
Winter Landscape, 1652,
Jan van de Cappelle
As a painter of marine shipping, usually on calm, inland waterways, Jan van de Cappelle left behind no self-portraits. There was no need for them with friends like Franz Hals and Rembrandt who both painted him. Actually, Jan van de Cappelle, though very good at what he did, is at least as well known today for his enormous collection of Dutch art (with a few Flemish pieces mixed in). When Rembrandt van Rijn was forced by creditors to liquidate virtually all he owned (1656 and again in 1658), his good friend Jan van de Cappelle was there, checkbook in hand, to scoop up at fire sale prices a sizable chunk of the offerings. At his death in 1679, van de Cappelle's collection numbered some 192 paintings and more than 7,000 drawings (500 by Rembrandt alone). In addition to his Rembrandts, van de Cappelle's collection featured work with names on the bottom like Rubens, van Dyck, van Goyen, Holbein, Bruegel, Lastman, Potter, Durer and a virtual "who's who" of specialty painters like himself. There were even seven paintings by van de Cappelle himself.

A Calm, 1654, Jan van de Cappelle.


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