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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lucas van Valckenborch

Passage Hivernal, 1586, Lucas van Valckenborch.
This would make a nice Christmas card. 
It's getting to be that time of year again when our thoughts turn to Baby Jesus, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, over-decorated front yards, sold out favorite toys, jingle all the way, and FOOD...lots and lots of fairly fattening food. Lest you think such holiday overindulgence is solely a modern day occasion, it might be worthwhile to take a look at the paintings of the 16th-Century court painter, Lucas van Valckenborch (I can't pronounce that name but you're welcome to try). You won't find Christmas trees (they hadn't been invented yet), Poinsettia, or kids abiding like sheep in their own cellphone fields. You might glimpse some candles in the windows, evergreen wreaths, and occasionally carols at the harpsicord. Fish, ham, and beef seem to top the menu, and of course, this being Northern Europe, heavy snow, and lots of warming beer or perhaps a spicy wine in a big bowl very much doing justice to the term "punch."
View of Antwerp with the Frozen Scheldt Anagoria, 1592, Lucas van Valckenborch.
Judging from van Valckenborch's paintings, the population of Northern Europe, regardless of nationality, did not limit their parties (they termed them "festivals") to the yuletide season. "Hey, look, the river froze over last night, let's celebrate!" In fact, regardless of the time of year it didn't take much cause to take a festive break from the hardship and boredom of their daily lives...winter or otherwise (below). The Valckenborch family seems to have found it very profitable to observe the jubilation and record it to canvas. There were three generations totaling fourteen artists decorating the family tree dating as far back ;as 1535.
Lucas van Valckenborch's feast paintings.
Is that a pizza front and center on the buffet table?
Lucas van Valckenborch,
Self-portrait, 1593
That was the year Lucas van Valckenborch had his name added to that tree along with that of his brother, Marten (sources list both brothers as having been born the same year as if they might have been twins). In 1560 Lucas van Valckenborch entered the painters' guild of Mechelen. Mechelen was known at the time as a center for oil and watercolors and especially landscape painting. The artistic milieu of Mech-elen was decisive in the development of the artist. There he learned the art of watercolor painting. There also he came to know the prom-inent painters Pieter Bruegel (the Elder) and Hans Bol, both of whom played an important role in the development of landscape painting in the Low Countries.

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At the start of the iconoclastic fury of the Beeldenstorm in 1566, Lucas van Valckenborch left Antwerp with his brother, probably for religious reasons as they may have been protestant. A series of topographical views, including a 1567 painted view of Liège, prove that van Valckenborch travelled up the Meuse valley. This trip played an important role in his development as a landscape artist working directly from nature. In 1570 the artist was in Aachen, where he met up again with his brother Marten. Here, the two brothers were also joined for two years by Hans Vredeman de Vries, friend and fellow artist.

Emperor Matthias as
Archduke with Baton,
1583, Lucas van
By 1575 Lucas had returned to Antwerp, where he must have made a name for himself. Before 1579 the young Archduke Matthias of Austria, the governor of the Spanish Neth-erlands, hired him as his court painter. The Archduke was particularly impressed by his skills as a portrait painter. As court painter, Valckenborch created in the Netherlands the designs for the Archduke's Guard and some portraits. After the Archduke lost his position as governor in 1582, he left the Netherlands and went to live in Linz. It's not clear, however, when or if van Valckenborch joined the Archduke in Linz. At the beginning of 1593 Lucas van Valckenborch joined his brother Marten in Frankfurt am Main. Here he became the teacher and collaborator of Georg Flegel. Lucas van Valckenborch remained active in Frankfurt until his death in 1597 at the age of sixty-two.

Damn, not another festival to cook for...


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