In “The Painter in his Studio” by Adriaen Van Ostade (1663), we see a self-portrait of the artist, sitting with his back to us. He is at his easel, and his brush hand rests on a ‘maulstick,’ a stick with a padded head used by painters to support the hand holding the paintbrush. In the shadowed background, a pupil is at work, possibly preparing a palette, or maybe preparing colors.
The window, the floor with all its debris, the walls, and the ceiling are depicted with great detail. The artist and his pupil are less detailed.
The studio is untidy, with brushes fallen on the littered floor. The room is cluttered with numerous odd objects and tools of the trade, including the head of a broken bust beneath a table. On the ceiling above the artist, a canvas canopy is tacked up, possibly to protect the artist’s work area from leaks, or perhaps falling dust.
A skull of some sort hangs near the window, and antlers also decorate the ceiling. The painter’s mannequin poses near the stairs, and an indistinct trunk stands open in the background.
The room is in desperate need of a good sweeping. The large leaded-glass window, however, is clean and lets in good light. It shows us how the artist saw himself and his work space.
As Rembrandt did, Van Ostade painted people who had seen hard times. They were often old, sometimes ill-favored, and not always beautiful. He painted dark interior scenes, where shadows are often the dominant features. He also painted the interiors of taverns and the homes of ordinary people, so through his work we who write can see how people really lived.
Van Ostade lived and painted in Haarlem. His subjects and the mood of his work is darker than that of his Flemish contemporaries, as hard times had fallen on the people of Holland, and Haarlem in particular.
Credits and Attributions:
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Adriaen van Ostade – The Painter in His Studio – WGA16748.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Adriaen_van_Ostade_-_The_Painter_in_His_Studio_-_WGA16748.jpg&oldid=270705051 (accessed May 10, 2018).