Pieter Claesz

The life and work of Pieter Claesz, 1596/1597 – 1661

About the life of Pieter Claesz

Pieter was born in Berchem, a small town near Antwerp, in 1596/1597. At a young age, Pieter moved north and settled in Haarlem, where he married in 1617 and had a son named Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem. This son later became a landscape painter, in contrast to his father who was a passionate still-life painter. After the death of his wife, Pieter married Trijntien Laurensdr on 8 August 1635 and together they got two more daughters.

About Pieter’s work

Pieter was a member of the Lucas guild in Haarlem and, together with his friend and colleague Willem Claesz Heda, was an important representative of the Haarlem School.

Pieter Claesz and Willem Heda are both “vanistas” still-life painters. Vanistas means ‘vanity/emptiness’ in Latin. This is depicted with, among other things, food, drink, musical instruments, skulls, extinguished candles, bells, soap bubbles and toppled glasses. They are not showpieces; the paintings want to convey to the viewer that they should lead a good and religious life, because life is temporary and mortal.

Pieter does paint real showpieces, showing gold, silver and richly decorated cups. Pieter had the fruit and flowers painted by other painters, such as Roelof Koets.

Through his work Pieter influenced the painters Jan Davidsz de Heem and Abraham van Beijeren.

At the beginning of his painting career Pieter painted with more colour and from above. Later his paintings became calmer with the colours grey, green and brown in various shades and he painted more from below. In some of his works Pieter is also depicted. Pieter sometimes painted himself reflected in a glass.

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