Martin Van Cleve

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A Flemish Household, ca. 1555-60.

Martin Van Cleve (1520 –1570) was a Flemish painter, the son of the painter William (the younger William) and was throughout his life closely associated with his brother Hendrick, who exerted great influence over his artistic career.

The majority of writers on Flemish art agree that Joos van Cleve was born in Antwerp, the son of the elder William. Martin studied under Frans Floris, and at first exhibited a strong predilection for landscape work.[1] Later on, however, persuaded by Henry, he devoted himself wholly to figure-painting. Historical subjects were his favourites, but he also achieved success in genre painting. The latter has been stigmatized as vulgar and suggestive, but while coarse, it reflects the peasant life of the Flemings. After a few early attempts in large compositions after the Italian manner of Floris, he painted small pictures only.

Martin van Cleef painted in the landscapes the figures of many eminent contemporaries, Pierre Gilles and Franz Floris among them, and he continually collaborated with his brother Henry in that way. Henry reciprocated and added to Martin's s figure-pieces landscape backgrounds. On many of his works Martin painted, as a mark, a small ape—playing thus on his name—and in consequence has frequently been called the "Master of the Ape". He was admitted to the Antwerp Academy, and in 1551 became a member of the St. Luke's Guild of Artists. He never travelled from his native Flanders, and died of gout at the age of fifty, leaving four sons—all of them painters. According to the RKD, Hans Jordaens was his pupil.[2]