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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Dutch Courtyards by Pieter de Hooch

"A Dutch Courtyard" by Pieter de Hooch

“A Dutch Courtyard” by Pieter de Hooch

“A Dutch Courtyard” by Pieter de Hooch depicts two men seated at a table in the courtyard and a standing woman. The soldier who is wearing a breastplate is setting down the pitcher he has used to fill the glass, now held by the woman. The “pass-glass” the woman is drinking from was used in drinking games. Each participant had to drink down to the next line on the glass. If the drinker failed to reach the line level, the reveller would be required to drink down to the next ring. Only when drinker had drunk successfully to the required line would the glass be passed on to the next participant. The little girl carries a brazier of hot coals so that the two soldiers can light their long-stemmed, white clay pipes.

Women going about their daily work or attending to visitors, such as the men seen in this painting were a frequent theme in De Hooch’s work. De Hooch worked in the city of Delft from about 1652 to 1660. His work showed astute observation of the details of everyday life and exhibited a sophisticated treatment of light similar to those of Vermeer, who lived in Delft at the same time as de Hooch. De Hooch painted everyday scenes in which his compositions emphasised the geometry of architectural elements. The doors, windows and their shutters, floor tiles, and bricks were all carefully detailed.

A Dutch Courtyard

  • Title:               A Dutch Courtyard
  • Artist:             Pieter de Hooch
  • Year:              1658-1660
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 69.5 cm (27.3 ″); Width: 60 cm (23.6 ″)
  • Museum:        National Gallery of Art, DC

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Drinkers in the Bower by Pieter de Hooch

Drinkers in the Bower

Drinkers in the Bower by Pieter de Hooch depicts a view of the back courtyard of a house, looking towards a building, which has an arched passage through it with a view of the street in front of the house. In the foreground at the step of the passage, is seated a child with a dog in her lap. On the right half of the composition under a covering of vine trellis, are two men seated at a table and a woman standing near them, with a glass of wine in her hand.

This painting is signed, and dated with an inscription “P.D.H. 1658” on the archway stone next to the young girl. The archway is identical to the one in De Hooch’s painting titled, The Courtyard of a House in Delft, but the right half of the courtyard is very different. Were these two paintings depicting a passageway that had special significance for De Hooch? And was it his home’s courtyard and his daughter?

Drinkers in the Bower

  • Title:               Drinkers in the Bower
  • Artist:             Pieter de Hooch
  • Year:              1658
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:   Height: 67 cm (26.3 ″); Width: 57 cm (22.4 ″)
  • Museum:         Scottish National Gallery

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"Courtyard in Delft at Evening: a Woman Spinning" by Pieter de Hooch

Courtyard in Delft at Evening: a Woman Spinning

“Courtyard in Delft at Evening: a Woman Spinning” by Pieter de Hooch depicts two women working on their domestic tasks. The standing figure who is walking from the sunlight into shadow is carrying a jug and a bucket. The seated figure seen in shadow is spinning wool. This painting is one of De Hooch’s earliest paintings of a courtyard scene, dated 1657, during a time that when De Hooch and Vermeer were both working in Delft. The viewer is invited to enter what is essentially a private world.

De Hooch knew Delft well as he was married in Delft in 1654 and while in Delft, de Hooch trained with the painters Carel Fabritius and Nicolaes Maes, who were early members of the Delft School. He had also became a member of the painters’ guild in Deft, so he knew the city well and added detail he was familiar with, such as on the right of the painting beyond the house could be seen two towers, the taller one is the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and the smaller one is the Town Hall.

Courtyard in Delft at Evening: a Woman Spinning

  • Title:               Courtyard in Delft at Evening: a Woman Spinning
  • Artist:             Pieter de Hooch
  • Year:               1656 – 1657
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 69.3 cm (27.2 ″); Width: 53.8 cm (21.1 ″)
  • Museum:        Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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Additional Dutch Courtyards by Pieter de Hooch

  • Company in a courtyard behind a house – Amsterdam Museum on loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Lady and her Cook – Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
  • Group portrait of an unknown family or company – Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna
  • A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking in a Courtyard – Mauritshuis, The Hague
  • Company in a courtyard behind a house – Amsterdam Museum on loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Pieter de Hooch

Pieter de Hooch (1629 – 1684) was a Dutch Golden Age painter famous for his works of domestic scenes with an open doorway. He was a contemporary of Jan Vermeer in the Delft Guild of St. Luke, with whom his work shares similar themes and style.

De Hooch was born in Rotterdam, but little is known of his early life. De Hooch learned to paint from painting instructors 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.

The early work of de Hooch was mostly composed of scenes of soldiers and peasants in stables and taverns during which time he developed skill in light, colour, and perspective. After starting his family in the mid-1650s, he switched his focus to domestic scenes. These paintings were most possibly of his own family. His work showed close observation of the details of everyday life while also functioning as morality tales. 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.

In his final years, it appears that his distress following the death of his wife caused de Hooch’s painting style to became coarser and darker in colour. He died in an asylum in 1684.

Delft School of Painting

The Delft School of Painting is a category of mid-17th-century Dutch Golden Age painting named after its home base, Delft. It is best known for images of domestic life, views of households, church interiors, courtyards, squares and the streets of that city. The Delft School of the Painting was made famous by Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer.

Besides the genres most closely associated with Delft painters, artists in the city continued to produce still life and history paintings, portraits for patrons and decorative pieces of art that reflected the general tendencies in Dutch art of the period.

Pieter de Hooch

A Tour of Artists

Reflections

  • I have developed an infatuation with Delft, as portrayed by De Hooch and Vermeer.

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“He who tends to his own garden does not see the weeds of his neighbours.”
– Dutch Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Pieter de Hooch [Public domain]

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