Abraham Bloemaert

Gorcum, 1566 - Ultrecht, 1651

  • The Flight into Egypt

    c. 1615

Little is known about the life of this Dutch artist, by whom some 200 paintings, more than 600 engravings and hundreds of drawings survive. His father was an accomplished artist who worked in several cities, and he therefore spent his early years and school days in different places. When he was still a child his family moved to Utrecht, where he spent various periods under different masters, among them Joos de Beer and Hieronymuys Francken. In the early 1580s he lived in Paris for three years and from 1591 to 1593 he worked in Amsterdam with his father, later returning to Utrecht where he spent the rest of his life and enjoyed great renown. There is an early biography of Bloemaert written by Van Mander in 1604 in his Book on Picturing, where he praises his art and ranks him slightly below Goltzius but above Wtewael.

A painter, engraver and draughtsman who depicted religious and mythological themes, landscapes and allegories, Bloemaert led a long and active professional life that brought him into contact with different art trends. Very few works survive from before 1604, but those dated to the early decades of the 17th century display the clear influence of Haarlem Mannerism. In the 1620s he began to assimilate the influence of the tenebrist language of Caravaggio through his pupil Gerrit van Honthorst, although his last paintings evolved towards classicism and a preference for uniform light and compositional and tonal harmony.

This versatile artist was highly influential during his own lifetime and in later periods through his drawings and engravings, which were used until well into the 18th century. Together with Paulus Moreelse he established a small academy of drawing where numerous young artists trained, and many of the most important painters of the school of Utrecht served a stint in his workshop at some point. His pupils included the aforementioned Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Cornelis van Poelenburg and Jan Both, as well as his own four sons Hendrick, Frederick, Cornelis and Adriaen. He was the most important master of the School of Utrecht.

The lingering influence his art continued to enjoy among painters of the Northern Netherlands was based on the book bringing together prints of his models engraved by his son Frederick. It is a splendid compilation of more than one hundred examples of busts, heads, arms and hands, published around 1650 with the title Artis Apellae Liber and perfectly adapted to the learning of drawing. In addition to this book, an important set of drawings was published in Amsterdam around 1740, which contributed to prolonging his influence until well into the 18th century.

Today Bloemaert’s works are housed in some of the most important museums in the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, the Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Trinidad de Antonio