- Steen, Jan
- Dutch, 1625/1626 - 1679
- Steen, Jan Havicksz
Jan Steen was born in Leiden, the son of a brewer and grain merchant. He was twenty years old when he enrolled at the university of Leiden in 1646. In 1648, he is recorded as one of the founding members of Leiden's newly formed Guild of St. Luke. Houbraken (see bibliography) stated that Steen's artistic education came from Jan van Goyen, the Leiden-born landscape painter who had settled in The Hague. According to Weyerman, Steen had previously studied with Nicolaes Knüpfer (c. 1603-1655) in Utrecht and Adriaen van Ostade in Haarlem.
Steen married Van Goyen's daughter Margaretha in September 1649, and he appears to have remained in The Hague until 1654. In that year, he is recorded on several occasions back in Leiden. From 1654 until 1657, Steen's father leased a Delft brewery by the name of "The Snake" on his son's behalf, but no other documents link Jan Steen with this city and it seems unlikely that he ever spent much time there. From 1656 to 1660, Steen lived at Warmond, a small town near Leiden. The increased interest in still-life details and careful finish of works produced during this period suggest his contact with the work of the Leiden fijnschilders.
By 1661 Steen had moved to Haarlem since he entered the St. Luke's guild in that year. The nine years that Steen spent in Haarlem saw the creation of many of his greatest paintings, including a number of large, complex scenes of families and merrymakers containing witty evocations of proverbs, emblems or other moralizing messages. Steen's pictures, which are marked by their sophisticated use of contemporary literature and popular theater, often depict characters from both the Italian Commedia dell'Arte and the native Dutch rederijkerskamers (rhetoricians' chambers), although Steen was not a rhetorician himself. In addition to genre subjects, Steen also depicted historical and religious subjects during the 1660s and 1670s. He remained a Catholic all his life.
In 1670, one year after the death of his wife, Steen moved to Leiden after inheriting his father's house. Two years later, he received a license to open an inn, a fact that has contributed to his traditional reputation as a dissolute drunkard. While he sometimes included his self-portrait in this guise in scenes of apparent immorality and chaos, there is no incriminating evidence----beyond his possession of an acute sense of humor--to suggest that Steen's real life mirrored his art.
In 1673 Steen married Marije Herculens van Egmont, who survived him by eight years. In 1674 he was elected deken of the Leiden guild, having served as an officer at the rank of hoofdman for the previous three years. There is no record of Steen having had any pupils, although a number of artists, notably Richard Brakenburgh (1650-1706), imitated his style. He died in Leiden in 1679. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
- Weyerman, J. C. De levens beschryvingen der nederlandsche konstschildrs en konstschilderessen. 4 vols. The Hague, 1729-1769: 2:348.
- Houbraken, Arnold. De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen. 3 vols. in 1. The Hague, 1753 (Reprint: Amsterdam, 1976): 1:374; 2:245; 3:7, 12-30.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 4(1833):xv-xx, 1-69; 9(1842):473.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):1-252.
- Jan Steen. Exh. cat. Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1958.
- Gudlaugsson, Sturla. The Comedians in the Work of Jan Steen and his Contemporaries. Translated by James Brockway and Patricia Wardle. Soest, 1975.
- De Vries, Lyckle. Jan Steen: De schilderende Uilenspiegel. Amsterdam, 1976.
- De Vries, Lyckle. "Jan Steen, 'de kluchtschilder'." Ph.D. diss., Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen, 1977.
- Kirschenbau, Baruch D. The Religious and Historical Paintings of Jan Steen. New York, 1977.
- Sutton, Peter C. Jan Steen: Comedy and Admonition. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1983.
- Sutton, Peter C. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Edited by Jane Iandola Watkins. (Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London). Philadelphia, 1984: 307-325.
- MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School, 1600-1900. Revised and expanded by Christopher Brown. 2 vols. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1991: 1:423-424.
- Wheelock, Jr., Arthur K. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 363.