OSTADE Adriaen van
Adriaen van Ostade is one of the main representatives of the Dutch peasant genre and as such a successor of Pieter Brueghel (ca 1525/30-1569) who developed peasant scenes into an independent branch of Dutch painting in the 16th century.
In about 1627, the master is said to have been a pupil of Frans Hals (1581/1585-1666), and it was in Hals' studio that he met the young Fleming Adriaen Brouwer (1605/06-1638). Brouwer's influence is detectable primarily in Ostade's early works. In the 30s, Ostade emerged as an artist in his own right, and from 1631 onwards, he signed and dated his paintings. In 1634, he became a member of the Haarlem painters' guild. In 1657, he converted to the Catholic faith and married an affluent native of Amsterdam.
More than 800 paintings, 50 etchings and numerous drawings evidence that he was a very prolific artist and made him prosperous until the end of his life. Although he rarely left Haarlem, his name became known far beyond the Dutch borders, and right into the 19th century he was as much in demand by collectors as Rembrandt (1606-1669).
Village Tavern with Four Figures
The painting at the Residenzgalerie, Salzburg is one of the artist's early works. A rundown, very uninviting hovel rather like a cowshed provides the setting for the informal gathering of shabby villagers, who form a lively group around a simple wooden table. As so often with Ostade, the men are wearing shapeless hats, which are pulled down so far that they partially conceal the men's grotesque features. Brouwer's influence is restricted to the earthy brown tones and the delicate pastel colours of the clothes which range from pale blue to pink. The chiaroscuro of the room is reminiscent of the early Rembrandt.
In 17th-century Holland, taverns were the centres of social life. Even women and children, indeed entire families, regularly spent their time there. The entertainment was cheap, ranging from watered beer and a great deal of tobacco smoking to a fling with girls of easy virtue.
Ostade's small-scale peasant scenes were sought after by an affluent clientele of middle-class art connoisseurs bent on having their stereotyped notions of depraved country life confirmed. The principal purpose of this genre was to entertain, to amaze and to amuse. It would be wrong to overrate moralising aspect of the genre.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 20