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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Philips Wouwerman

A View of Mount Calvary with the Crucifixion, 1652, Philips Wouwerman
Just as men are usually interested in different pastimes than women, the same tends to be true in each gender's choice of subject content in their art. That's not to say that, as with avocational interests, there isn't some overlap between the genders when it comes to art. There definitely is. I suppose now, that's more the case than then. Today, one might be safe to say that there is not a single male interest that doesn't also note some degree of feminine presence. That's undoubtedly true in most, if not all, opposite instances as well. Of course most of us septuagenarians (and probably some of those younger) can recall when this wasn't the case at all. I can remember at Thanksgiving, for instance, when our families used to come together; the women cooked; the men went rabbit hunting. Today, no one goes rabbit hunting but the men sometimes help prepare the feast, though mostly they just sit around and gab. And of course, the women do their share of that too.

Landscape with Peasants by a Cottage, 1651-53,  Philips Wouwerman
During the 17th-century, during the Dutch "Golden Age," as a few women began to achieve recognition as artists, never was there a stronger dichotomy as to gender related content. At a time when there was a tremendous amount of specialization as to painting content, women only painted flowers, portraits, children, genre, and still-lifes. Men, such as Philips Wouwerman, would sometimes paint some of that too, but also farm animals, ships, religious subjects, mythological nudes, group portraits, and barroom characters, some going so far as to secretly dabble in erotic content, even pornography. Philips Wouwerman specialized in the highly masculine pursuits of hunting, battle scenes, landscapes and horses with riders. Seldom did he paint portraits (especially not children), still-lifes (never with flowers) or much in the way of genre except for a few peasant landscapes (above). Philips Wouwerman was a man's artist.

Smoke and dust accented with a turbulent swirl of Cavalry violence.
These date from the mid 1650s.
The Gray, 1645-47, Philips Wouwerman
As might be expected in such a male dominated era as the 1600s, Philips Wouwerman was highly successful and extremely productive. His paint-ings were avidly sought-after by wealthy burghers and the emerging Dutch middle-class of his day. Wou-werman was extremely fond of horses. They recur again and again in his scenes of battlefields, army camps, hunting parties, riding schools, and stables. Wouwerman was the most ac-complished Dutch 17th-century painter of horses. They usually feature prom-inently in his small cabinet pictures, which combine landscape and genre elements. Naturally, he sought out equestrian subjects to display his talents, including simple, unpretentious scenes of farriers, stables, riding schools and travelers at rest, as well as larger, multi-figured compositions of hunting parties, army encampments and cavalry battles. Almost six-hundred paintings by Wouwerman have come down to us. Yet he is far from being a household name. Wouwerman's A View of Mount Calvary with the Crucifixion (top) is one of his best works and quite atypical of his usual content, though having virtually all the traits of his style as seen in two of his battle scenes (above).

A man painting for men.
Philips Wouwerman was the eldest son of the painter Paulus Joosten Wouwerman. Philips was baptized in Haarlem in May of 1619. His younger brothers, Pieter and Jan, also became artists, painting in much the style of Philips. Art historians and authenticators have long struggled to separate their works, often changing their attribution back and forth among the three. Wouwerman probably took his first instruction in painting from his father but he is said to have also been a pupil of Frans Hals, though that's questionable in that none of Hals' influence is evident in Wouwerman's work. In 1638, against the wishes of his family, Wouwerman travelled to Hamburg to marry a Catholic girl named Annetje Pietersz. van Broeckhof. They had ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Wouwerman remained in Haarlem for the rest of his life. He died there in May of 1668.

Winter Landscape with Wooden Bridge, Philips Wouwerman
About 800 pictures were initially listed as the work of Philip Wouwerman. By some accounts, the number exceeded 1200. However, as of 2006, only about 570 pictures are now listed as authentic works, due to the fact that many of the pictures originally attributed to Wouwerman were actually painted by countless followers and imitators all over Europe. Jan and Pieter Wouwerman, Philips' younger brothers, have often been regarded as close followers, their pictures frequently attributed to Philips. The oeuvre of Pieter clearly manifests the influence of Philips as to the range of his subjects, as well as his artistic style.

Man and Woman on Horseback, 1653-54, Philips Wouwerman 


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