Show Summary Details

Page of

 Printed from Grove Art Online. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Subscriber: null; date: 21 October 2019

Bloemaert familylocked

  • C. J. A. Wansink

Dutch family of artists. Cornelis Bloemaert I (b Dordrecht, c. 1540; d Utrecht, bur 1 Nov 1593) was an architect, sculptor and teacher, whose pupils included Hendrick de Keyser I. In 1567 he visited ’s Hertogenbosch in order to repair the city gates and the pulpit of the St Janskerk, which had been damaged in 1566 during the Iconoclastic Fury. From 1576 he lived in Utrecht, where in 1586 he collaborated on decorations for the ceremonial entry of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and self-styled Governor General of the United Provinces. From 1591 to 1593 Bloemaert was master builder of Amsterdam. His son (1) Abraham Bloemaert (b 1566) was the most gifted member of the family and became one of the most important painters working in Utrecht in the first half of the 17th century. Four of Abraham’s sons also worked as artists, all of them receiving their initial training from their father. The eldest son, Hendrick Bloemaert (b Utrecht, 1601–2; d Utrecht, 30 Dec 1672), was a painter and poet. Hendrick travelled to Italy and was in Rome in 1627; he returned to Utrecht c. 1630. His oeuvre includes religious works, mythological and genre scenes and portraits. His best works are those in which he combined the style of the Utrecht Caravaggisti with the decorative manner of his father. As a poet, Hendrick is best known for his rhymed translation of Guarini’s Il pastor fido (Venice, 1590). Abraham Bloemaert’s second son, Cornelis Bloemaert II (b Utrecht, 1603; d Rome, ?1684), studied with his father, Gerrit van Honthorst and Crispijn de Passe I, but although he was originally trained as a painter, he devoted himself primarily to printmaking (see Hollstein, nos 1–321). In 1630 Cornelis the younger travelled to Paris and then to Rome, where he made prints after paintings and sculptures in major collections. He also made engravings after works by his father (e.g. six Pastorals, Hollstein, nos 212–15). Another of Abraham’s sons, Adriaen Bloemaert (b Utrecht, c. 1609; d Utrecht, 8 Jan 1666), was a painter, draughtsman and perhaps also an engraver. He travelled to Italy and worked for a time in Salzburg, where in 1637 he painted eight canvases: the Mysteries of the Rosary (all U. Salzburg, Aula Academica). The landscapes signed A. Blommaert, which are attributed to him, are now believed to be the work of Abraham Blommaert (fl 1669–83) from Middelburg (see Bok and Roethlisberger). Frederick Bloemaert (b Utrecht, c. 1616; d Utrecht, 11 June 1690) worked exclusively as an engraver; almost all his prints were after his father’s compositions. These include the engravings for his father’s Konstryk tekenboek (‘Artistic drawing book’), which was reprinted many times up to the 19th century.

(1) Abraham Bloemaert

(b Gorinchem, Dec 24, 1566; d Utrecht, Jan 13, 1651).

Painter, draughtsman, writer and teacher. His long, successful career and many prominent pupils, especially among the Utrecht Caravaggisti, made him one of Utrecht’s principal painters in the first half of the 17th century. During his lifetime he enjoyed high esteem for his paintings of religious and mythological subjects and for his numerous drawings. At first he worked in a Mannerist style, then in a Caravaggesque manner, finally adopting a distinctive, decorative synthesis of both approaches.

1. Life and painted work.

According to van Mander, as a child Bloemaert moved with his family from Gorinchem to ’s Hertogenbosch and from there to Utrecht. He began to draw in Utrecht, under the direction of his father, Cornelis Bloemaert I, copying works by Frans Floris. He was apprenticed to the painter Gerrit Splinter (fl 1569–89) but remained with him for only two weeks. His second teacher, Joos de Beer (d 1599), was a mediocre painter in van Mander’s view, although he possessed an excellent collection of paintings, including works by Dirck Barendsz. and Anthonie Blocklandt. In preparation for an apprenticeship with Blocklandt (then the most important painter in Utrecht), Bloemaert was sent by his father to study with an unnamed bailiff at Hedel Castle, but the bailiff used Bloemaert as a house servant rather than instructing him, and Bloemaert returned home empty-handed after 18 months. Then, c. 1582, he travelled to Paris, where he studied first with Jehan Bassot, later with a ‘Maître Herry’ and finally with Hieronymous Francken. (In later years Bloemaert complained bitterly of his fragmented training, under no fewer than six masters.) Before leaving Paris, he came in contact with French Mannerist works from the school of Fontainebleau. By 1585 he was back in Utrecht, where he probably worked with his father. In April 1591 he accompanied him to Amsterdam, of which he became a citizen on 13 October. In May 1592, the banns proclaimed in both Utrecht and Amsterdam, he married Judith van Schonenburgh (d 1599), a wealthy spinster 20 years his senior; this marriage remained childless. A year later he returned to Utrecht, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Two circular paintings, Bacchus and Ceres (both Buscot Park, Oxon, NT) were recognized by Roethlisberger as probably the earliest known works by Bloemaert (see Roethlisberger, 1994). They show a strong influence of the work of Frans Floris and the Fontainebleau school. The earliest known dated paintings, the Death of the Children of Niobe (1591; Copenhagen, Stat. Mus. Kst) and Apollo and Daphne (1592; ex-Schles. Mus. Bild. Kst., Breslau; ? destr.), were executed in Amsterdam in a style strongly related to the late Mannerist style influenced by Bartholomäus Spranger that was current in Haarlem at that time. In works of this period one part of the scene, often the principal subject, takes place in the background, while the foreground is filled with large, usually nude, figures, who are presented in unnaturally twisted poses. The distinction between foreground and background is emphasized by colour: warm foreground colours, such as brown and red, contrast with the cooler greens and grey-whites of the background. Although the muscular figures betray the considerable influence of Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem’s characteristically Mannerist works of the late 1580s, they are distinguished by their lyrical character: strong emotion and violence are alien to Bloemaert, and his modelling of the muscles is softer. Several of Bloemaert’s Mannerist works before c. 1600 represent religious and mythological subjects not previously depicted in Dutch art, such as the Death of the Children of Niobe and the Burning of Troy (Frankfurt am Main, Städel. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.). The latter is one of several loosely painted nocturnes executed c. 1593; these small panels, which also include two versions of Judith (Vienna, Ksthist. Mus., and Frankfurt am Main, Städel. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.), reveal a combination of brilliant lighting effects and bright acidic colours.

After 1595 the transition between the foreground and background in Bloemaert’s works became less abrupt. He deployed the figures more evenly within the picture space, as in Moses Striking Water from the Rock (1596; New York, Met.). Landscape elements became more important after 1596, as can be seen, for example, in St John the Baptist Preaching (Amsterdam, Rijksmus.) and the Baptism (Ham House, Surrey, NT); powerful tree formations in particular are prominent in his work of this period. The attitudes of the figures remain unnatural, however, and the musculature is still exaggerated.

After the death of his first wife, Bloemaert married Gerarda de Roij, the daughter of a local brewer, on 12 October 1600; they had many children, four of whom became artists. Around this time his work manifested a development that had occurred earlier in Haarlem, influenced by Hendrick Goltzius’s journey to Italy. The exaggerated poses used by Bartholomäus Spranger began to give way to more relaxed, natural figures who move freely, usually within more naturalistic surroundings, giving the paintings of these years, such as the Baptism (1602; Ottawa, N.G.), a more subdued Mannerism. At the same time he painted his first landscapes with picturesque ruined cottages, in which the religious or mythological figures play a subordinate role, such as the Parable of the Sower (1605; print by Jacob Matham after Bloemaert, Hollstein, xi, p. 221) and Tobias and the Angel (St Petersburg, Hermitage). Country life was to remain a favourite subject, which he depicted with an increasing naturalism; however, as van Mander recommended, he drew such motifs as peasant cottages, dovecotes and trees from life (‘naer het leven’) and then in his studio composed them into imagined scenes (‘uyt den geest’).

Between 1610 and 1615 the Catholic Church awarded several important commissions to Bloemaert, who was a devout Catholic. In 1612 he painted an Adoration of the Shepherds (Paris, Louvre) for the convent of the Poor Clares in ’s Hertogenbosch, where his sister Barbara was a nun, and in 1615 Christ and the Virgin before God the Father for the new high altar of the St Janskerk in the same town. In 1611 he was one of the founders of the Utrecht Guild of St Luke.

Bloemaert’s career reached a peak in the 1620s; influenced by his pupil Gerrit van Honthorst, who had returned from Italy in 1620, and other Utrecht Caravaggisti, he painted several Caravaggesque pieces c. 1623, some of which are notable for their use of candlelight effects, as in the Supper at Emmaus (Brussels, Mus. A. Anc.) and the Adoration of the Shepherds (Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Mus.), and others for the half-length figures, such as The Flute-player (Utrecht, Cent. Mus.). He also made large altarpieces for clandestine Catholic churches, including an Adoration of the Shepherds (1623; The Hague, St Jacobskerk) and an Adoration of the Magi (Utrecht, Cent. Mus.). In 1625 Bloemaert was commissioned by Frederick Henry, Stadholder of the Netherlands, to paint two scenes from the Story of Theagenes and Chariclea for Honselersdijk: Theagenes, Chariclea and the Robbers (1625; Potsdam, Schloss Sanssouci) and Theagenes Receiving the Prize from Chariclea (1626; The Hague, Mauritshuis). Still under the influence of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, he also painted several small pastoral landscapes with peasants and shepherds (e.g. Hannover, Niedersächs. Landesmus.), as well as half-length shepherds and shepherdesses (e.g. Karlsruhe, Staatl. Ksthalle; Toledo, OH, Mus. A.). Bloemaert’s large figural works of the 1620s, such as the Adoration of the Magi and Theagenes Receiving the Prize from Chariclea, are characterized by an extremely rich palette, with colours varying from citron yellow and bright blue to penetrating reds, acidic greens and pinks. This multicoloured mixture enhances the decorative character of the paintings. The pastoral landscapes of the same period, with shepherds and peasants, were painted in lighter pastel tints; these found great favour during the 18th century, notably with François Boucher.

Bloemaert’s interest in peasant life was expressed in the 1630s mainly in studies of heads of old men and women (e.g. Stockholm, Nmus.; Dresden, Gemäldegal. Alte Meister). These reveal Bloemaert as a keen observer, though they lack the psychological depth of similar studies by Jan Lievens or Rembrandt. Bloemaert’s Rest on the Flight to Egypt (1632; Amsterdam, Rijksmus.) is set, most unusually, in a peasant hut. In 1635 Frederick Henry commissioned another painting from Bloemaert for Honselersdijk, this time the Wedding of Amarillis and Mirtillo (Berlin, Jagdschloss Grunewald), a scene from Guarini’s Il pastor fido (Venice, 1590).

Bloemaert’s last paintings, executed in the 1640s when he was in his eighties, show his technical skill undiminished; their style is still decorative and their subjects increasingly recall his earlier works, as in Mercury, Argus and Io (1645; Vaduz, Samml. Liechtenstein) and Leto and the Peasants (1645; Utrecht, Cent. Mus.). In the background of his Landscape with a Farmhouse (1650; Berlin, Gemäldegal.) is a Mannerist scene of Tobias and the Angel.

2. Drawings.

Bloemaert was also a talented draughtsman. His enormous output, more than 1500 drawings, covers not only figure drawings, peasant cottages, nature studies and preparatory studies for paintings, but also countless detailed drawings that served as models for prints. According to van Mander he had ‘a very nice manner of drawing and handling the pen, and he obtained an unusual effect by adding a few succulent touches of colour’. His drawings are characterized by the great variety of both the techniques he applied and especially the styles he used. The latter is not surprising, as he had a long professional life and probably continued drawing until the last year of his life. His early landscape drawings can be considered as belonging to the best ever made in this genre. On the one hand they still show influence of such predecessors as Pieter Bruegel the elder and Hendrick Goltzius, but on the other they stand out because of a very precise observation of nature. Compositions from his Mannerist period were made into prints by, among others, Jan Saenredam, Jan Muller and Jacques de Gheyn II, and later by his sons Cornelis and Frederick, which greatly facilitated the dissemination of his oeuvre. His drawings were extremely popular and were frequently copied. His Konstryk tekenboek (‘Artistic drawing book’), a pattern book for young artists, was engraved by Frederick Bloemaert and appeared in numerous editions up to the 19th century.

3. Influence and posthumous reputation.

As a teacher, Bloemaert played an important role in the formation of a distinctive Utrecht style of painting. Not only were such Utrecht Caravaggisti as Gerrit van Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Jan van Bijlert his pupils, but the Dutch Italianates Cornelis van Poelenburch, Jan Both and Jan Weenix also studied with him, as did Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp. The great Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens visited him in 1627. Bloemaert’s early style had a significant influence on the work of Joachim Wtewael, but his son Hendrick Bloemaert was the only artist who continued to work in his mature manner. Although Abraham Bloemaert enjoyed high esteem in his own day, his reputation has, for a long time, up to 1993, suffered from the lack of an up-to-date catalogue raisonné of his entire oeuvre.


  • K. van Mander: Schilder-boeck ([1603]–1604), fols 297r–298r
  • G. Delbanco: Der Maler Abraham Bloemaert (diss., U. Strasbourg, 1928)
  • M. A. Lavin: ‘An Attribution to Abraham Bloemaert’, Oud-Holland, 80 (1965), pp. 123–5 [rosailles]
  • M. Röthlisberger: ‘Abraham Bloemaert’, Gemälde bedeutender niederländischer Meister des 17. Jahrhunderts (exh. cat., Vienna, Gal. Friederike Pallamar, 1967), pp. 15–26
  • Abraham Bloemaert, 1564–1651: Prints and Drawings (exh. cat., New York, Met., 1973)
  • G. Vikan: ‘Notes on Princeton Drawings, 10: Abraham Bloemaert’, Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, 33 (1974), pp. 2–17
  • R. S. Slatkin: ‘Abraham Bloemaert and François Boucher: Affinity and Relationship’, Master Drawings, 14/3 (1976), pp. 247–60
  • J. Bolten: Method and Practice: Dutch and Flemish Drawing Books, 1600–1750 (Landau, 1985)
  • Nieuw licht op de Gouden Eeuw (exh. cat., ed. A. Blankert and L. J. Slatkes; Utrecht, Cent. Mus.; Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Mus., 1986–7), pp. 208–17
  • R. Ruurs: ‘The Date of Abraham Bloemaert’s Birth’, Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, 9 (1989), pp. 4–5
  • J. Bolton: ‘Abraham Bloemaert (1564–1651) and his Tekenboek’, Delineavit et sculpsit, 9 (March 1993), pp. 1–10
  • M. G. Roethlisberger and M. J. Bok: Abraham Bloemaert and his Sons: Paintings and Prints, 2 vols (Doornspijk, 1993)
  • Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580–1620 (exh. cat., ed. G. Luijten and others; Amsterdam, Rijksmus., 1993–4), pp. 300–01 and passim
  • M. G. Roethlisberger: ‘Early Abraham Bloemaert’, Tableau, 17/3 (1994), pp. 44–51


  • Bloemaert
  • Oorspronkelyk en vermaard konstryk tekenboek van Abraham Bloemaert, geestryk getekent, en meesterlyk gegraveert by zyn zoon Frederik Bloemaert (Amsterdam, 1711)


  • K. van Mander: Schilder-boeck ([1603]–1604), fol. 297
  • M. G. Roethlisberger and M. J. Bok: Abraham Bloemaert and his Sons: Paintings and Prints, 2 vols (Doornspijk, 1993)
  • M. J. Bok and M. Roethlisberger: ‘Not Adriaen Bloemaert but Abraham Blommaert (of Middelburg), Landscape Painter’, Oud-Holland, 109 (1995)
A. von Wurzbach: Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon auf Grund archivalischen Forschungen bearbeitet, 3 vols (Vienna and Leipzig, 1906–11/R Amsterdam, 1974)
F. W. H. Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, c. 1450–1700 (Amsterdam, 1949–)
U. Thieme and F. Becker, eds: Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 37 vols (Leipzig, 1907–50) [see also Meissner above]