Jacob Campo Weyerman and his Collection of Artists’ Biographies

An Art Critic at Work


Weyerman’s collection of artists’ biographies (1729) is exceptional for three reasons. Firstly, he includes a great number of painters not mentioned elsewhere. Secondly, he does not limit his selection to good artists only; he also discusses failed painters and their abortive careers. Thirdly, he writes as an art critic who does not hesitate to pass judgments, sometimes severe, on his chosen subjects.

In the process, Weyerman provides much information on the social and economic circumstances of art production. He found that a bohemian lifestyle was pernicious to a painter’s career, and argued that artists should live and think as merchants. In addition to analyzing Weyerman’s art critical terminology and his ideas on art theory, De Vries includes translations of two full chapters along with the original Dutch.

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Lyckle de Vries (*1937) retired from Groningen University in 2000. Apart from writing monographic studies on 17th-century Dutch artists, he analysed contemporary printed sources on Dutch art and art theory, Gerard de Lairesse (1998, 2011), and Johan van Gool (1990).
List of Illustrations

 1 Contents of the Levens-Beschryvingen
 2 Weyerman’s Opinions

1 Painted and Written Genre Scenes
 1 Urban Genre
 2 Low Life Genre
 3 Italianate Scenes
 4 Large-Scale Genre Paintings
 5 Fine Painting

2 Failed Artists
 1 Pretentions of Nobility
 2 Social Skills
 3 Marriage
 4 Painterly Studios
 5 Intemperance
 6 Mental Problems
 7 Art Dealers and Their Victims
 8 Copying
 9 Antwerp’s Vrijdagsmarkt
 10 Street Vendors and Itinerant Painters

3 Portraiture
 1 London
 2 The ‘Byway’ of Art
 3 The Sitter’s Identity
 4 Good Manners, Flattery and Beauty
 5 The Netherlands
 6 Other Group Portraits

4 Art in the Public Space
 1 Altarpieces
 2 Stained Glass Windows
 3 Wall Tapestries
 4 Princely Commissions
 5 Government Commissions
 6 Municipal Commissions
 7 Festive Entries
 8 Private Commissions

5 Art Criticism
 1 Choice of Subject Matter
 2 Composition
 3 Human Figures
 4 Pictorial Space
 5 Reddering
 6 Colouring
 7 Handling of the Brush
 8 Welstand

6 Pliny, Durand and Weyerman
 1 Weyerman’s Ideas in Perspective
 2 Beauty
 3 Grace
 4 Art and Nature
 5 The Purpose of Art
 6 Classification
 7 Conclusion


Appendix 1: Biography of Willem de Fouchier

Appendix 2: Disquisition on the Art of the Ancients
Art historians interested in early modern Dutch art theory and art criticism; historians of the social and economic circumstances of art production; literary historians interested in one of Weyerman’s lesser known literary works. Keywords: artists’ biographies; art criticism; art theory; practical work in the painter’s studio; social status of artists; art dealers.