During the golden years of Dutch art, Pieter de Hooch was among the highly celebrated painters whose genre painting style was comparable to Jan Vermeer. He even worked alongside the said Delft painter during the mid-1600, but while they shared some similarities they also had their different take on their chosen subject matter. Hooch opted for painting things or objects while Vermeer focused on persons.
In the early stages of de Hooch’s career, it was visible that his painting figures were given little study because he’d rather paint them for the sake of it. But this style changed over time and he became a master of his own craft. The color and lighting in his paintings were drawn upon realistic inspirations just as when he finds them compared to Vermeer’s inclination towards using blue and yellow tones to affect contrast between light and dark.
Aside from Vermeer, Rembrandt had also been influential on de Hooch’s style of painting. Rembrandt’s influence was more evident on his works during his middle years. Some of his most important works included A Couple Walking in the Citizens’ Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall (1665), Woman Drinking with Soldiers (1658), Musical Party in a Courtyard (1677), and Woman Hands over Money to her Servant (1670).
Pieter de Hooch was born on 1629 in Rotterdam. He was a child of a butcher named Hendrick Hendricksz de Hooch and a midwife Annetge Pieters. He was the first offspring of the couple out of five children. His parents afforded to send him to an art school in Haarlem, in which he was trained by Nicolaes Berchem, a master in landscape painting.
At the age of 24, he worked for Justus de la Grange, a wealthy business traveler. Grange presumably ordered ten paintings from de Hooch as the paintings were made by his so-called ‘footman’. It is also believed that this patron might have introduced de Hooch to the works of Jan Steen, Nicolaes Maes and Gabriel Metsu since Grange had an occasional visit to both Leiden and The Hague.
In 1654, Pieter de Hooch pursued left the household of Grange to marry Jannetje van der Burch with whom he had seven children. The couple had then moved to Delft. Over there, he joined the local painter’s guild where he was trained and got influenced by experienced artists such as Carel Fabritius. It was also Delft where he reached the pinnacle of his career, spanning from his 36th to 46th year of age.
When de Hooch earned sums of fortune as he became in-demand, he moved to a business district in Amsterdam by 1661. However, because of the French influence over the artists in the said city, his original style of painting couldn’t adjust to the new approach, disabling him to be as productive as before. This drastic change had also declined the quality in his works. Another factor that art historians have attributed to his issue was the death of de Hooch’s wife in 1667. Apparently, he got demotivated as he suffered from depression.
In 1684, Pietro de Hooch died alone in an asylum in Amsterdam, leaving approximately 84 paintings behind. However, the real reason behind his admission to the mental institution is undisclosed.
Unbalanced linear perspective had been the recurring problem in de Hooch’s paintings. The rooms in which he sets up his figure are waning instead of giving more vivid details to put emphasis on the elaborate linear schemes. But this was overturned in his later years, and a prime proof to the adjustments he made to perfect his composition is the Interior of a Dutch House (1657), which it features a child and woman inside a house and a standing woman outside.
Its style is Baroque painted on a panel using oil paints. The doorways framed the figures well and each cut is intricately chosen as well as the flooring of the house. Every object in the painting is important that he made sure that they are properly arranged and well-placed. One can’t deny that the whole picture emulates charm and speaks poetry as the painter made an excellent attempt in using vivid colors to lighten up the surroundings. This is also why Interior of a Dutch House is considered as the greatest genre painting of his time.
In most of de Hooch’s works, intimate coloring and high quality are observed. His works were almost incomparable if not for the influence of Vermeer and Rembrandt on him. He most likely adopted the coloring approach of Rembrandt while he used Vermeer’s landscape and scenic genre paintings as an inspiration. Nevertheless, de Hooch was a great landscape artist for being able to adjust his approach to applying the principles of linear perspective that solved his spatial-related problem.
Having been a specialist of genre painting, particularly the daily life of Dutch men, women and children, he would sometimes paint outside of his house like on the streets. He would let a house “sit” as a model to his theme. This approach allows him to give elaborate details on the characters and surroundings.
A little over a decade of his twilight years, Pieter de Hooch tried to adjust to the new wave of French-inspired painting style. He remained brilliant in his art works but due to the death of his wife plus the demoralizing effect of the new French art that swept Amsterdam off its feet. He got distracted and unable to correct his mistakes so the quality of his paintings went downhill.
He failed miserably because he got nobody to draw inspiration from when it comes to the technicality of French art. Almost every artist in Amsterdam that time was undergoing an adjustment period but because of his old-age, around 50’s, he may have rather stay for good in the city than move out once again. But this doesn’t mean that he failed as an artist in general, in fact, his works served as an inspiration for Vilhelm Hammershoi a century after his death.