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Osias Beert the Elder

Flemish, c. 1580 - 1624

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Along with Jan Brueghel the Elder, Osias Beert was the most important still-life painter in Antwerp during the early seventeenth century. He was not only a pioneer in the development of tabletop still lifes, specifically those filled with festive culinary delights such as those seen in the NGA painting Dishes with Oysters, Fruit and Wine, but also painted sumptuous floral bouquets, which he often depicted in expensive Wan Li vases.

Just how he developed his mastery of these two still-life specialties is unknown, although his interests may have developed under the guidance of his purported teacher, an otherwise unknown artist by the name of Andris van Baseroo, with whom he studied in 1596. It is also probable that the stylistic and compositional innovations of Jan Brueghel the Elder, as well as those of Georg Flegel (1566-1638) in Frankfurt and Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1621) in Middelburg, would have inspired him.

Beert joined the Saint Lucas Guild in Antwerp in 1602 and took his first pupil, Hans Ykens, shortly thereafter.[1] In 1606 Beert married Margarita Ykens (d. 1646/1647). Their son, Osias Beert the Younger (1622-c. 1678), became an artist who successfully worked in his father's style. He, as well as Beert's own pupils, was probably responsible for the many replicas and variants of the elder Beert's compositions still extant today. Beert, who was a member of the rhetoricians' chamber de Olijftak (the Olive Branch) from 1615 until his death in 1624, also worked as a cork merchant. The fact that he had this second profession suggests that he did not earn a high income as a painter.[2] [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

[1] Edith Greindl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, Brussels, 1983: 35, notes that Beert subsequently had five other pupils, among them his wife's nephew Frans Ykens (1601-1693) in 1615 and Paulus Pontius (1603-1658) in 1616.

[2] Greindl 1983, 35, also notes that Beert's home, den Koning der Mooren (The King of the Moors), was situated in a modest neighborhood in Antwerp.

Artist Bibliography

Hairs, Marie-Louise. "Osias Beert l'Ancien, peintre de fleurs." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 20 (1951): 237-251.
Greindl, Edith. Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle. Brussels, 1983: 22-36.
Sutton, Peter C., and Marjorie E. Wieseman, et al. The Age of Rubens. Exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Toledo Museum of Art. Boston, 1993: 526-528.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 2.

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