Karel Dujardin (1622-1678), the Dutch Golden Age painter, created this charming etching in the 1660s, along with the farmyard scene below:
Born in Amsterdam, Dujardin studied with Nicolaes Berchem, and then left for Italy, where he belonged to a group of Dutch artists in Rome; there he first gained his nickname, “Goat beard”. He then went on to France, where he contracted a large debt, which he was able to pay off after marrying his wealthy and much older landlady. Throughout his life he would return to Italy for inspiration, and many of his artworks have an Italianate flair. His works — mainly oil paintings and etchings — appealed to the middle class art lovers of Amsterdam, and sold briskly.
What fascinates me in his story is the great love that the Dutch people of the 17th century had for painting and etching. It is estimated that between 5 and 10 million works of art were produced in the Netherlands in the 17th century; fewer than 1 % of these remain. Most Dutch homes had pictures — etchings and oil paintings — with a typical room displaying 20 to 30 pictures. This helps to explain the explosion of etching at this time, since etching is a less expensive way to enjoy original works of art. It is probably not happenstance that this effervescence of domestic pictures coincided with the removal of art from the Reformed Churches.
An Englishman, John Evelyn, who visited Amsterdam in 1640, wrote, “As for the Art of Painting and affection of the people to Pictures, I think none other goe beyond them… All in general striving to adorne their houses with costly peeces… pictures are very common here, there being scarcely an ordinary tradesman whose house is not decorated with them”.
We are indebted to the Dutch men and women from over 400 years ago who loved art so much. The etchings that have come down from their time possess vitality and joy to lighten our own hearts. Bill and I just hung these two etchings in our newly rebuilt conservatory where we eat our meals, and so we get to enjoy them every day. We can laugh now at the despair of the 17th century reformed preacher, Dirck Camphuyzen, who condemned pictures as a dangerous form of moral deception:
“Painting! Ha, who can denounce it without [inciting] general rebellion? … the whole world depends on etching, drawing, painting… painting is the common bait for the uneasy heart overwhelmed by choice, that despite having to meet essential needs charms the money out of one’s purse; painting is the sauce for all that sprouts from the human mind!”