About Joos van Craesbeeck
Neerlinter circa 1608 – before 1662 Brussels
Painter of genre scenes.
Van Craesbeeck was the son of a baker, with whom he initially trained as a baker. Following his marriage with the daughter of the baker of the citadel of Antwerp in 1631, our future painter worked with his brother-in-law: he delivered bread to the citadel where in 1633 the famous genre and landscape painter Adriaen Brouwer (1605/06 – 1638) was imprisoned, because of tax debts. The two men must already have been close friends before. Van Craesbeeck studied painting under Brouwer and became himself a painter.
Brouwer can be considered the inventor of low-life genre scenes, which could be rather crude and sordid. Although his paintings were very sought after and his prices were very high he seems during his short life to have had debts very regularly. He influenced strongly the Flemish painters Joos van Craesbeeck, David Teniers II (1610 – 1690), David Ryckaert III (1612 – 1661) and Gillis II van Tilborgh (1615 – 1675), as well as many Dutch painters, for he had also been active in Amsterdam and Haarlem.
Van Craesbeeck’s wife family counted several artists: the landscape painter Jan Tielens and the sculptors Melchior and Caspar Grison were her uncles.
In the year 1633/34 van Craesbeeck joined the Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp. At the start of his career he remained also active as a baker. In two years time, 1637/1638, he lost both his wife (the couple had no children) and his master-friend Brouwer.
Van Craesbeeck lived as a painter in Antwerp until 1650/51, when he moved to Brussels, probably for financial reasons: with the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 the river Scheldt, the entrance gate to the harbour of Antwerp, remained officially closed, so that the economical activity in Antwerp got more and more reduced. Several painters, among them Teniers and van Craesbeeck left Antwerp for Brussels.
Like Brouwer he favoured painting peasants in taverns or brothels drinking, carousing, playing cards, smoking, quarrelling and falling in love. Through depictions of what goes wrong and the implications of their behaviour on their tempestuous lives he and his colleague genre painters gave a moral message to their by humanism inspired clients.
The early works of van Craesbeeck clearly show the influence of Brouwer in subject-matter, figure-types, expressive emotions and in style, favouring brownish tonalities.
Following Brouwer’s death in 1638 he got more and more influenced by David Teniers II and he turned also to depictions of the middle-class world in more subtle harmonizing toning.
Finally in his Brussels years he started using vivid colours. The genre scene painter Adriaen Rombouts was his best-known pupil here.