Over the next two blogs I am going to take a look at two Flemish artists who besides being highly talented were brothers. They were the van Ostade brothers. Today I am going to feature Isack, who was the lesser known of the two, maybe because he only lived to the age of twenty-eight.
Isack van Ostade was born in Haarlem in 1621. He was a Dutch landscape and genre painter. Genre paintings were ones depicting scenes of daily life and were particularly popular in 17th century Holland. Isack and his brother Adriaen, who was eleven years older, were the sons of Jan Hendricx Ostade, a weaver from the town of Ostade, close to the city of Eindhoven. Despite being born in Haarlem both he and his brother took the name “van Ostade” as their family name. Isack studied painting under the guidance of his elder brother until he was almost twenty-one years of age at which time he independently set up his artistic business. He started off painting subjects similar to his brother and his work was always viewed as not as accomplished as the works of Adriaen van Ostade. Realising this, Isack decided to stop painting the genre scenes and concentrate more on landscape work in the fashion of Salomon van Ruysdael, the Dutch Golden Age landscape artist.
In his earlier paintings the figures were the key feature but in his later works his landscape becomes increasingly significant. His change to landscape painting paid off and this coupled with his skill at figure painting ensured the popularity of his winter scenes in which we would see groups of animated people in wintery landscape settings. These winter scenes like my featured painting today, Winter Scene, were his speciality. He painted this picture around 1645 and it now hangs in the National Gallery in London. It is quite similar to the painting, Winter Landscape with Wooden Bridge which another Dutch painter, Philips Wouwerman completed fifteen years later.
The painting we see before us is beautifully picturesque and we view the scene from low down which allows us to see the old rickety wooden bridge outlined against a silvery grey winter sky with its dark snow bearing cloud approaching the area. The scene is populated by peasants. Some, like the youngsters, are enjoying themselves sledging and skating on the frozen river whilst others, the adults, are hard at work as we see the man encouraging his old white horse to drag the laden cart up the riverbank and we watch old man as he slowly climbs the steps of the bridge, his back straining under his load of firewood.
Sadly fewer than three dozen winter landscapes of Isack van Ostade are known today. He died in 1649 at the early age of twenty-eight. He had few, if any, pupils yet his influence on the succeeding generation of Haarlem painters was great and the likes of Philips Wouwerman owed a lot to this young man.