A member of the Ryckaert (or Rijckaert) family of artists, Martin was the son of David Ryckaert I, the younger brother of David Ryckaert II, and the uncle of David Ryckaert III. As the result of a birth defect or because of an accident, he had only one arm.
Martin probably first studied wih his father and was later a pupil of Tobias Verhaecht (or Verhaeght). Verhaecht was also Peter Paul Rubens’s teacher for a brief period. Martin became a member of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1607.
It is believed he traveled to Italy between 1607 and 1610 although no documentary evidence of this trip has been found. Martin rejoined the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1611 and was registered as the "painter with one arm". He spent the remainder of his professional career in his native city. He was active in the local Chamber of rhetoric De Violieren. He never married and collected many paintings by his contemporaries in his house in the Meyerstraat in Antwerp.
He was reportedly a close friend of Anthony van Dyck, who painted his portrait showing Ryckaert dressed up as a king, around 1630. This portrait was in the possession of Martin Ryckaert when he died and is today in the Prado in Madrid. The portrait was engraved by Jacob Neefs and then included in van Dyck's book project entitled "Iconography" which contained portraits of famous people of that time. Ryckaert fell ill in early 1631 and died in Antwerp on 28 October. He left his entire fortune to his sister Maria and his brother Pauwel.
His work mainly depicts imaginary landscapes with forests, often with waterfalls, rocks, ruins, architecture and small human figures. According to the early Dutch biographer Arnold Houbraken, Martin Ryckaert’s work was similar to that of the Antwerp painter Joos de Momper.
It is difficult to make any statement on the stylistic development of his work. The landscapes are in an Italianate style and thus resemble those of the Rome-based Flemish landscape painter Paul Bril. The panoramic view of his compositions is indebted to Jan Brueghel the Elder. This is most obvious in works such as the Landscape with the Flight into Egypt (in a private collection) that is based on a lost original by Brueghel, although Ryckaert did not slavishly copy Brueghel's invention. The colour treatment resembles that of Joos de Momper. His style of painting became gradually obsolete during his own life time and was replaced by the Baroque style, which was characterized by a greater realism, greater scale, warmer colours and transparent light.
- The Collector's Cabinet: Flemish Paintings from New England Private Collections, University of Massachusetts Press, 1983
- Biographical details at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Biographical details at the Nouvelle Biographie Nationale (French)
- Biografische details in Wurzbach, Alfred von [Bearb.], Niederländisches Künstlerlexikon: mit mehr als 3000 Monogrammen (Band 2): L - Z, Amsterdam, 1910 (German)
- Sotheby's Important Old Master Paintings, Including European Works of Art, New York | 29 janv. 2009
- Moir, Alfred, Anthony van Dyck, Thames and Hudson, Londen, 1994, p. 98
- Marten Rykaard biography in: Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 1718 (Dutch)
- Mcfall, Haldane. A History of Painting. 8 Volumes, D. D. Nickerson, 1911; reprinted Whitefish, MT, Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
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