1625 (Leiden) - 1679 (Leiden)
by Jan Melkert
Jan Steen was the son of a merchant and owner of a brewery. Like Rembrandt he visited the Latin school. The reputation of Steen is partly due to the biographer Houbraken, who a hundred years after the death of Steen, emphasized the so called loose lifestyle of Jan Steen. Our view and ideas on Jan Steen are coloured by the scenes and motives of the merry households. During his life Steen did not meet the same appreciation as he received after his death. He left an enormous oeuvre and seeing this oeuvre you can hardly imagine that Steen could have lived in the way Houbraken depicts him. He was a hardworking painter. His popularity nowadays is based on a combination of a number of attractive qualities. The open, merry and narrative character of his paintings, the perfect technique and the use of the colorize possibilities. His works are persuaded of moral lessons. Many of his works show in the form of textual additions moralizing sayings. ‘SOO GEWONNEN, SOO VERTEERT” (YOU WIN, YOU LOOSE)and “ZO VOOR GEZONGEN, ZO NA GEPEPEN’( CHILDREN LEARN THINGS FROM THE OLDER ONES), and ‘DE GEVOLGEN VAN ONMATIGHEID’(THE CONSEQUENTIES OF IMMODARECY). These are moral messages, warnings against excessiveness on every field. Often these are commonplaces, clichés, but derived from ordinary life. It often makes you think of theatre of the people and the Italian Commedia dell’arte. For the people of the 17th century these moral allusions were more clear than they are for us. Jan Steen is able to mix several elements into a coherent whole; elements like technical precision, use of colours, composition and use of the paintbrush. Together with the expression of the figures it made brilliant scenes, full of figures, families, drinking people in inns etc. After his unfinished course at the Latin school, we encounter him as one of the founders of the saint Lucas guild in Leiden. It is unknown who were his masters. He was married with a daughter of the painter Jan van Goyen. Steen lived for some time in The Haque, later on in Delft. In this town he explored a brewery in order to increase his income. This brewery was not a financial success and via Warmond, Haarlem he settles definitely in Leiden again after the death of his father. The works of Jan Steen, like other 17th century painters, are rarely dated, so that a chronology is difficult to establish. In his early works Steen used a less broad scale of colours. Brown and gray ground tones are predominant. His later works show a varied use of colours. His works become lighter. Besides the works with the motives of the daily life he also painted scenes from the bible.
„SOO GEWONNEN, SOO VERTEERT” (YOU WIN, YOU LOOSE)
Source: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_Steen_011.jpg | Click on the picture to go to its source.
“ZO VOOR GEZONGEN, ZO NA GEPEPEN‟( CHILDREN LEARN THINGS FROM THE OLDER ONES)
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Jan_Steen_022_colour_version_01.jpg | Click on the picture to go to its source.
„DE WIJN IS EEN SPOTTER‟(WINE IS A MOCKER).
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:The_wine_is_a_mocker_1663-1664_Jan_... | Click on the picture to go to its source.