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Voorlopige catalogus van de schilderijen van Pieter Veen

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image of Oud Holland - Journal for Art of the Low Countries

Pieter Veen's name is virtually unmentioned in art-historical sources. Moreover, many of his paintings, some of them bearing false signatures, were sold under other names, which may partly account for his obscurity. Veen lived and worked in Rotterdam, where he was a dean of Saint Luke's guild in 1716, 1720, 1731 and 1736. Eighteenth-century auction catalogues list him as a pupil of Adriaen van der Werff, whose influence can certainly be seen in his work. Not, however, in his earliest extant painting, and the only one to be dated: a portrait of Geertruy van der Hey, a burgomaster's wife, done in 1686. In type, the portrait is closer to the work of Jan Verkolje, who was active in Delft. From a written source we know that Veen painted a portrait of Adriaen Boon in 1684. This justifies the cautious conclusion that he began his career as a portraitist. By far the greater part of his output consisted however of history paintings, most of them religious works. He also painted a few mythological pictures and especially allegories. An occasional link can be established with work by Adriaen van der Werff; Veen's Fall, for instance, is partly based on the latter's Adam and Eve after the Fall. Veen's style is less rigidly classicistic, though. His paintings have a narrative character. In that respect his work has more in common with the notions of classicism as expressed in Gerard Hoet's bible illustrations and Arnold Houbraken's paintings. Veen tends towards the decorative: graceful attitudes, elongated bodies and little parallel folds in garments are characteristic of his style. An eclectic painter, he was influenced by the art of both his own period and the past. Abraham Receiving the Three Angels, Susanna and the Elders and Apollo and Daphne, for instance, appear to derive from sixteenth-century exemplars. The Holy Family with Anna and Angels is actually a direct copy of a composition by Hans van Aken. The landscape in Shepherd Playing a Flute displays the influence of French classicists such as Poussin and Millet, many of whose works Veen could have seen in Rotterdam. Pieter Veen possessed only a modest talent, and there arc hardly any signs of a development in his work. Nonetheless, this forgotten Rotterdam painter deserves a place among the minor masters of the period.


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