Monday, October 1, 2012


Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (or Terbrugghen) (b. 1588 probably The Hague, The Netherlands, d. 1629 Utrecht, The Netherlands) was a Dutch painter, and a leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio — the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti.
Little is known of the early life of ter Brugghen; he could have been born in The Hague, but his family seems to have moved to the strongly Catholic Utrecht in the early 1590s. Here he started painting at the age of thirteen, studying with Abraham Bloemaert. From Bloemaert, a Mannerist history painter, he learned the basics of the art.
Around 1604, however, ter Brugghen travelled to Italy to expand his skills, like many of his Dutch counterparts, with the exception of Rembrandt who is known for his adamant refusal to do so. He was in Rome in 1604, and could therefore have been in direct contact with Caravaggio (who fled the city in 1606 on a murder charge). He certainly studied his work, as well as that of his followers – the Italian Caravaggisti – such as Orazio Gentileschi. Caravaggio's work had caused quite a sensation in Italy.

Boy playing a Fife, 1621

Terbrugghen was chiefly a religious painter, but he also produced some remarkable genre works, notably a pair of Flute Players (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel, 1621), which in their subtle tonality - with dark figures placed against a light background - anticipated by a generation the achievement of painters of the Delft school such as Fabritius and Vermeer. Although he was praised by Rubens, who visited Utrecht in 1627, Terbrugghen was neglected by 18th- and 19th-century collectors and historians. The rediscovery of his sensitive and poetic paintings has been part of the reappraisal of Caravaggesque art during the 20th century.
Supper at Emmaus, 1621
Sanssouci Picture Gallery
Source Web Gallery of Art
A Laughing Bravo with a Bass Viol and a glass, 1625
Acquired by Charles I
returned to the Collection by Sir Peter Lely
Apart from religious compositions, ter Bruggen also painted a number of canvases of musicians either to be shown in pairs or singly. The figures in these paintings are not dressed in contemporary clothes, but almost certainly in theatrical, or occasionally pastoral, costume. A laughing bravo, above, was acquired by Charles I. At the time of the Restoration in 1660 it was in the possession of the painter Sir Peter Lely, who returned it to the crown. The origin of these compositions again lies in Caravaggio (for example, The lute player of 1595, The Hermitage, St Petersburg), who, however, treated the subject, and other related single-figure compositions, as exercises in genre.
Ter Bruggen dispenses with any narrative or anecdotal interest and consequently his pictures are closer to allegories, even though he would have seen itinerant musicians of this kind on his return to Holland. If allegory is the intention in the present painting, then it could be interpreted as illustrating two of the five senses - Taste and Hearing. Some of the musicians depicted by ter Bruggen are introspective, but here the mood is more outgoing, emphasized by the scale of the figure seen from below. The artist used the same model in several other paintings.
The Concert
This painting has a strong claim to be ter Brugghen's finest treatment of a secular subject. He has taken a scene favored by Caravaggio and his Roman followers - a group of flamboyantly dressed musicians seen by candlelight - and treated it in his own distinctive manner, placing the dramatically lit half-length figures against a light background. Paintings of the same subject by Caravaggio (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Bartolommeo Manfredi (Florence, Uffizi) are among the prototypes for this composition. Their large-scale, half-length figures, their crowding together within the composition and their closeness to the edge of the canvas, as well as the bright, colorful palette can all be found in this painting. Ter Brugghen brings to this existing format an individual fluency in modeling the soft edges of his forms and a remarkable subtlety of palette.
Boy lighting a pipe
Knabe mit Pfeife
Singing Boy
Leaning on the globe, the old man complains. Tears trickle down his cheeks. This is the Greek philosopher Heraclitus mourning the world's folly. Hendrick ter Brugghen painted this wise man as a boorish figure with weathered head and hands. Models of this kind were popular among the Utrecht caravaggists, of whom Ter Brugghen is the best known.
Terbrugghen’s paintings were characteristic for their bold chiaroscuro technique – the contrast produced by clear, bright surfaces alongside somber, dark sections – but also for the social realism of the subjects, sometimes charming, sometimes shocking or downright vulgar. Other Italian painters who had an influence on ter Brugghen during his stay in Italy were Annibale Carracci, Domenichino and Guido Reni. Upon returning to Utrecht, he worked with Gerard van Honthorst, another of the Dutch Caravaggisti.
Ter Brugghen's favorite subjects were half-length figures of drinkers or musicians, but he also produced larger-scale religious images and group portraits. He carried with him Caravaggio's influence, and his paintings have a strong dramatic use of light and shadow, as well as emotionally charged subjects.
There are pictures by him in the Royal Coll. and in Amsterdam (Rijkmus.), Augsburg, Basle, Berlin, Bordeaux, Cambridge Mass. (Fogg), Cassel, Cologne, Copenhagen, Deventer (Town Hall), Edinburgh (NG), Gateshead, Gotha, Gothenburg, Greenville SC, Le Harve, London (NG), Malibu Cal., New York (Met. Mus.), Northampton Mass., Oberlin Ohio, Oxford, Paris (Louvre), Rome (Gall. Naz.), Sacramento Cal., Schwerin, Stockholm, Toledo Ohio, Utrecht and Vienna.
(The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, Penguin Reference Books)
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