Willem Kalf

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Willem Kalf
Portrait of Willem Kalf.jpg
Willem Kalf
Born 1619
Died 1693
Nationality Dutch
Known for Painting

Willem Kalf (1619 – 31 July 1693) [1] was a Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in still lifes. Later in his life, Kalf became an art dealer and appraiser.[1]

Life and work

Pronk Still Life with Holbein Bowl, Nautilus Cup, Glass Goblet and Fruit Dish

Willem Kalf was born in Rotterdam, in 1619.[1] He was previously thought to have been born in 1622, but H. E. van Gelder’s important archival research has established the painter’s correct place and date of birth.[1] Kalf was born into a prosperous patrician family in Rotterdam, where his father, a cloth merchant, held municipal posts as well.[1] In the late 1630s, Willem Kalf traveled to Paris and spent time in the circle of the Flemish artists in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.[1] In Paris he painted mainly small-scale rustic interiors and still lifes.[1] Kalf’s rustic interiors are typically dominated by groups of vegetables, buckets, pots and pans, which he arranged as a still life in the foreground (e.g. Kitchen Still life, Dresden, Gemäldegal; Alte Meister).[1] Figures usually appeared only in the blurred obscurity of the background. Though painted in Paris, those pictures belong to a pictorial tradition practiced primarily in Flanders in the early 17th century, by such artists as David Teniers the Younger.[1] The only indication of the French origin of the paintings are a few objects that Flemish exponents of the same genre would not have pictured in their works.[1] Kalf’s rustic interiors had a large influence on French art in the circle of the Le Nain brothers.[1] The semi-monochrome still lifes which Kalf created in Paris from a link to the banketjes or 'little banquet pieces' painted by such Dutch artists as Pieter Claesz, Willem Claeszoon Heda and others in the 1630s.[1] During the 1640s, Kalf further developed the banketje into a novel form of sumptuous and ornate still life (known as pronkstilleven), depicting rich groupings of gold and silver vessels.[1] Like other still lifes of this period, these paintings were usually expressing vanitas allegories.[1].

Still lifes

Willem Kalf, Still-Life, Louvre, 1660.

Kalf's magnificent still life paintings vary little in their structure, and most of them actually feature the same objects.[1] Usually, a damask cloth or tapestry is draped upon a table on which there is tableware, with gold and silver vessels, many of which have been identified as work of specific goldsmiths, such as Johannes Lutma. There is almost always a Chinese porcelain bowl, often tilted so that the fruits tumble out of it.

Public collections

Among the public collections holding works by Willem Kalf are:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Willem Kalf (1622–1693)" (history, note year "1622" revised), Artfact, 1986-2007, webpage: http://www.artfact.com/features/viewArtist.cfm?artistRef=KZUVLCC1Z4

External links

  • Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Hermitage, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Kalf (cat. no. 16)
  • Painted Light Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany
  • Willem Kalf page at the Rijksmuseum's website.
  • Online gallery and literature at PubHist
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