Pieter de Hooch

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Pieter de Hooch
Pieter de Hooch, self-portrait
Possible self-portrait (1648-1649?)
Born(1629-12-20)20 December 1629
Rotterdam, Dutch Republic
Diedafter 1683
Jannetje van der Burch
(m. 1654; died 1667)

Pieter de Hooch (Dutch: [ˈpitər ɦoːx], also spelled "Hoogh" or "Hooghe"; 20 December 1629 (baptized) – after 1683, was a Dutch Golden Age painter famous for his genre works of quiet domestic scenes with an open doorway. He was a contemporary, in the Delft Guild of St. Luke, of Jan Vermeer with whom his work shares themes and style. De Hooch was first recorded in Delft on 5 August 1652, when he and another painter, Hendrick van der Burch witnessed the signing of a will.[1] He was active in 1683, but his date of death is unknown (his son Pieter died in 1684, a date often wrongly given for the father).[2]


De Hooch was born in Rotterdam to Hendrick Hendricksz de Hooch, a bricklayer, and Annetge Pieters, a midwife. He was the eldest of five children and outlived all of his siblings. Little is known of his early life, and most archival evidence suggests he worked in Rotterdam, Delft, and Amsterdam. According to his first biographer Arnold Houbraken, he studied art in Haarlem under the landscape painter Nicolaes Berchem at the same time as Jacob Ochtervelt and was known for his "kamergezichten" or "room-views" with ladies and gentlemen in conversation.[3] But De Hooch's work seems to continue in the spirit of Hendrik Sorgh, an older Rotterdam painter who had a special affinity for organizing figures in interiors. Beginning in 1650, he worked as a painter and servant for a linen-merchant and art collector named Justus de la Grange in Rotterdam. His service for the merchant required him to accompany him on his travels to The Hague, Leiden, and Delft, to which he moved in 1652.[4] It is likely that de Hooch handed over most of his works to la Grange during this period in exchange for board and other benefits, as this was a common commercial arrangement for painters at the time, and a later inventory recorded that la Grange possessed eleven of his paintings.[1]

De Hooch was married in Delft in 1654 to Jannetje van der Burch, by whom he fathered seven children. While in Delft, de Hooch is also believed to have learned from the painters Carel Fabritius and Nicolaes Maes, who were early members of the Delft School. He became a member of the painters' guild of Saint Luke in 1655 (two years after Vermeer). For a significant period, it was believed that Pieter de Hooch died at the age of fifty-four as a resident in the Amsterdam dolhuis, a lunatic asylum. Despite this, official records from that institution reveal that the Pieter de Hooch who died there was, in fact, the artist's son, who also bore the name Pieter. His daughter Anna was born in Delft on 14 November 1656.[2] Based on the fact that his wife attended a baptism in Amsterdam in 1660, it has been determined that he moved to Amsterdam by then, though the success of the trekschuit by then meant that a trip to Amsterdam could be made easily in a day.[5]

Little is known of De Hooch's living arrangements in Amsterdam, though it has been established that he had contact with Emanuel de Witte.[2] In 1670, he was living in the Konijnenstraat.[5] He lived in an area outside of the city walls but near the Westerkerk where his family attended church. It is said often that he died in an asylum in 1684, but it was his son of the same name who died.[6] The date of his death is unknown. In 2017 the Turing Foundation sponsored a new research project for the Delft Prinsenhof museum and the Rijksmuseum to work on a new overview exhibition focussing on the works in their collection, to be presented in a combined exhibition 2019–2020.[7]


Man Offering a Glass of Wine to a Woman c. 1653

The early work of de Hooch was mostly composed of scenes of soldiers and peasants in stables and taverns in the manner of Adriaen van Ostade, though he used these to develop great skill in light, colour, and perspective rather than to explore an interest in the subject matter. In these compositions, the focal point is not dispersed among numerous figure groups, in contrast to the soldier paintings of other artists. Instead, emphasis is concentrated on a principal group illuminated directly by the sun, which prominently stands out against a dark background, in the style of chiaroscuro. These works frequently showcase colour combinations typical of the artist's later period, such as a vivid vermilion and lemon yellow, often complemented by a warm dark green or blue in the shadows. Occasionally, backgrounds open into brightly lit adjoining rooms, and lighted figures may be framed in doorways. The contrast between light and shadow tends to be accentuated, with sunlit portions of the canvas appearing cooler and paler compared to his later works. Notably, De Hooch's mastery is most evident when portraying figures in repose, exemplified in two masterpieces painted around 1654 - one housed in the Palazzo Corsini and the other in the London National Gallery - which mark the culmination of his early period.[8]

The Courtyard of a House in Delft c. 1658

De Hooch's early artistic development is evidenced by the maturity exhibited in his paintings executed around 1655. By 1654, he had attained a zenith in depicting soldier scenes, a focus that persisted into the initial years of his marriage. After starting his family in the mid-1650s, he switched his focus to domestic scenes.[6] These were possibly of his own family, though his works of well-to-do women breastfeeding and caring for children could also indicate that he had attended his mother on her rounds as a midwife. His work showed astute observation of the mundane details of everyday life while also functioning as well-ordered morality tales. From the fact he dated a whole series in 1658, whilst he dated very few others, suggests he himself recognised the importance of these paintings.[8]

These paintings often exhibited a sophisticated and delicate treatment of light similar to those of Vermeer, who lived in Delft at the same time as de Hooch. The themes and compositions are also very similar between De Hooch and Vermeer. 19th-century art historians had assumed that Vermeer had been influenced by de Hooch's work,[9] and indeed PDH demonstrated first early on a special interest in combining the figure with interior geometry (see Interior with a Mother and Child and a Servant c. 1656 and others). An x-ray of the Interior with a Woman Weighing a Gold Coin shows that De Hooch had tried another figure in the empty chair first so this points to his canvas being the more original model that Vermeer quoted.[10]

De Hooch also shared themes and compositions with Emanuel de Witte, though De Witte soon devoted himself mainly to painting church interior scenes after moving to Amsterdam in 1651. De Witte seems more preoccupied with the rooms themselves, filling his paintings with objects, and De Hooch is more interested in people and their relationships to each other, leaving his rooms empty of any extra objects that do not support the scene.[11]

Going for a Walk in the Amsterdam Town Hall c.  1663–1665

In the 1660s, he began to paint for wealthier patrons in Amsterdam, and is known for merry company scenes and family portraits in opulent interiors with marble floors and high ceilings. During his time in Amsterdam, he continued to make his domestic scenes, but both the interiors and their occupants appear more opulent. As de Hooch did not have entrée to the homes of the aristocracy, he conceived the idea of utilizing the marble halls of the newly-built City Hall as a background for his social scenes. He was thus enabled to make accurate architectural settings, and the interiors, and to some extent, the light and colour schemes in these paintings are extremely successful.

A Game of Ninepins c. 1665

De Hooch also depicted courting couples playing skittles. The highest quality version can be seen at Waddesdon Manor. It was produced shortly after de Hooch moved to Amsterdam and is a good example of his depictions of early country house gardens which replaced his earlier simple Delft courtyards. The theme of skittle playing relates to 'Garden of Love' and 'Game of Love' imagery found in both high art and popular print culture. The woman looking out at the viewer is the protagonist in this sport of Love.[12]

Interior with Two Women and a Man Drinking and Eating Oysters c. 1681

Most scholars believe that de Hooch's work after around 1670 became more stylized and deteriorated in quality. It may be that his work was affected by his distress at the death of his wife in 1667 at age 38, leaving him with a young family. During his Amsterdam period, De Hooch encountered less success when revisiting motifs from his Delft era, such as depictions involving a young mother with her child and a serving maid, or when he revisited the soldier scenes reminiscent of his earlier days. In these instances of self-repetition, devoid of fresh impressions, the paintings are perceived as having an exaggeratedly dark overall tone, and certain prominent colours, notably a sullen vermillion and a cold blue prevalent in the shadows, are characterised as harsh. Additionally, these works are described as appearing lifeless and cumbersome in outline, with a perceived falseness in their structural composition.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Artist Info". www.nga.gov. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Pieter de Hooch in the RKD
  3. ^ a b (in Dutch) Pieter de Hooge Biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  4. ^ "Transcendence in Ordinary Domestic Life", Wall Street Journal, 19 August 2017
  5. ^ a b According to biographer Peter C. Sutton, De Hooch's wife Jannetje van der Burch was family of Hendrick van der Burgh (ca. 1625- na 1664) who lived in Leiden, also on the Delft-Amsterdam trekschuit route
  6. ^ a b "Pieter de Hooch - Artists - Rijksstudio".
  7. ^ Rijksmuseum press release, 19 April 2018
  8. ^ a b Pieter de Hooch (1 January 1930). Pieter de Hooch;: The master's paintings in 180 reproductions, with an appendix on the genre painters in the manner of Pieter de Hooch and Hendrik van der Burch's art. Internet Archive. A. Zwemmer.
  9. ^ "Pieter de Hooch | Dutch painter | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Woman Holding a Balance". www.nga.gov. Retrieved 10 March 2024.
  11. ^ "Emanuel de Witte (1615/17 - 1691/2) | National Gallery, London". www.nationalgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2024.
  12. ^ "A Game of Ninepins - Waddesdon Manor". waddesdon.org.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2024.


  • Pieter de Hooch:Complete Edition, by Peter C. Sutton, Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1980, ISBN 0714818283
  • Encyclopædia Britannica
  • "New information on Pieter de Hooch and the Amsterdam lunatic asylum", by Frans Grijzenhout, Burlington Magazine, September 2008

External links[edit]