- Heyden, Jan van der
- Dutch, 1637 - 1712
Jan van der Heyden was born March 5, 1637 in Gorkum, the third of eight children. His oldest brother, Goris, was a mirror-maker by trade, and Van der Heyden's first training in art came from a local glass-painter. The difficult--and irreversible--technique of painting images on the back of a sheet of glass enjoyed a certain popularity at the time, and several works of this type by Van der Heyden have survived. On June 26, 1661, Van der Heyden was married in Amsterdam to Sara ter Hiel of Utrecht. He is known to have been practicing as an artist at this time, but no dated paintings survive from before 1664.
Van der Heyden's oeuvre is largely composed of cityscapes and other depictions of groups of buildings, although he did paint some forty pure landscapes. Some of Van der Heyden's works are essentially faithful depictions of a real location, but many others are entirely imaginary architectural fantasies. Typically, his scenes are bathed in a brilliant, crisp light of almost unnatural clarity, and are also characterized by remarkable attention to detail.
Although his artistic output was considerable, the majority of documentary records of Jan van der Heyden's life relate to his activities in fields totally unrelated to the arts. In 1670 he was appointed Amsterdam's overseer of streetlights, and in 1673 assumed responsibility for the city's fire brigade. He was clearly greatly preoccupied with the problem of how to fight fires effectively, and with his brother Nicolaes devoted much time between 1668 and 1671 to inventing a highly successful new water pumping mechanism. In 1679, Van der Heyden bought land on the Koestraat on which to build a house and fire-engine factory, and in 1690 he and his eldest son, Jan, published a large, illustrated book on the fire hose, entitled Beschrijving der nieuwlijks uitgevonden en geoctrojeerde Slangbrandspuiten.
When he died in Amsterdam on March 28, 1712, Van der Heyden was a wealthy man, and had in his possession some seventy of his own paintings. His influence on other seventeenth-century artists was relatively limited, but he was an extremely important source for architectural painters of the following century, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
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- Wagner, Helga. "Jan van der Heyden als Zeichner." Jahrbuch der königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen) 12 (1970): 111-150.
- Wagner, Helga. Jan van der Heyden 1637-1712. Amsterdam and Haarlem, 1971.
- Sluijter, Eric Jan. "Review of Jan van der Heyden 1637-1712 by Helga Wagner, Amsterdam and Haarlem, 1971." Oud-Holland 87 (1973): 244-252.
- Van Eeghen, I.H. "Archivalia betreffenden Jan van der Heyden." Maandblad Amstelodamum 60 (1973): 29-36, 54-61, 73-79, 99-106, 128-134.
- De Vries, Lyckle. Jan van der Heyden. Amsterdam, 1984.
- Sutton, Peter C., et al. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art. Boston, 1987: 342-345.
- MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School, 1600-1900. Revised and expanded by Christopher Brown. 2 vols. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1991: 1:168.
- Wheelock, Jr., Arthur K. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 106-107.