Dutch genre painter Pieter de Hooch was known for his interior scenes that displayed the relation of light to different surfaces such as the glow of filtered sunshine cascading through a window or slightly open door. These scenes captured the simple, expressive gestures of his subjects occupied with everyday life. While he did not invent genre painting, he offered a new look into space and perspective through color.
Pieter De Hooch was born in Rotterdam in 1629, the eldest of five children born to middle class parents. His earliest art studies took place in Haarlem under the landscape painter, Nicolaes Berchem. In 1650, he worked as a painter and servant for a linen-merchant and art collector named Justus de la Grange. He exchanged paintings for board and other benefits during his days under La Grange. Later on, inventory revealed that La Grange possessed eleven of Pieter’s paintings.
Pieter met his future wife Jannetje van der Burch in 1654 during one of his trips to Delft where he accompanied his master. They married and a year later moved there and had seven children. The aspiring artist joined the painters’ St. Lukas Guild.
Pieter de Hooch’s earliest subjects were soldiers in stables and taverns, dim locations where he could better develop his skills in manipulating light, color and perspective. His warm tones, subtle colors and quiet atmospheres show Rembrandt's influence on his work.
Family life had a profound effect on Pieter as the theme for his paintings began to reflect a more domestic life that portrayed loving mothers and busy housewives amidst courtyards and gardens. He displayed an outstanding mastery of the interior by portraying dimension through the use of filtered light from doorways and windows. One of his most popular and finest paintings that reflect this unique style is ‘Courtyard of a Dutch House’.
Pieter de Hooch faced a dark time when his wife died in 1667 leaving him as the sole caretaker of his seven children. He moved his family to Amsterdam where there was a larger market for his paintings. Although he was receiving commissions from those in the affluent society, he chose to live in the poorest area of Amsterdam. A wealthier clientele resulted in more luxurious interiors and regal subjects portrayed in his paintings during this time. ‘Paying the Hostess’ and ‘A Musical Party in a Courtyard’ are some of the paintings created during the Amsterdam years.
Over time, his style began to lose its warmth evolving into a darker and more complex style of art. The deterioration of his paintings seemed to stem from ill health and while it is not known how he ended up in an insane asylum, he died there in 1684 leaving a legacy of work that would inspire future generations.