The Haarlem painter Adriaen van Ostade (1610 – 1685) is generally regarded as a humorous portrayer of rural life of the simple Dutch population, of farmers and craftsmen, of their village festivals and fairs, of their drinking and social encounters on the village road. His paintings were particularly popular with the urban bourgeois public because of their satirical character, the caricatural exaggeration of the figures and their moralising content. Beer and wine mugs, pipes and playing cards were common symbols of bad habits and vice. In this way many contemporary viewers saw their own pleasurable behaviour reflected and found themselves admonished to moderation. At the same time, one enjoyed the amusing subjects and could laugh at the ‘comical’ peasants.
While the loud peasant satires of his painter friend Adriaen Brouwer (1610 – 1638) were characteristic for the young Ostade, a fundamental change in his style began at the end of the 1640s. Under the impression of Rembrandt (1606/1607 – 1669) he turned to etching for the first time. In his etchings he developed a new, personal view of rural life. A boisterous drinking session was replaced by a decently emptied jug of beer or wine. The satirical perspective evolved into a more neutral, almost intimate observation of everyday life. Ostade depicted the customs and behaviour, the joys and interpersonal relationships of the simple population for the first time with empathy and fine humour.
The exhibition Adriaen van Ostade: The Simple Life, features two outstanding paintings from his early oeuvre and exquisite etchings, revealing the special character of his graphic oeuvre and his change of style to a sensitive manner of expression. With sensitivity and his ability to depict human emotions, the versatile painter-engraver created a unique oeuvre in which the Dutch sense of community is brought to life for us today.
Curated by Andrea Lutz