Arnold Houbraken

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Arnold Houbraken
Arnold Houbraken, attributed to Arnold Houbraken.jpg
Attributed to Arnold Houbraken
Born(1660-03-28)28 March 1660
Died14 October 1719(1719-10-14) (aged 59)
Amsterdam, Dutch Republic
Known for Painting, engraving, art history
Movement Dutch Golden Age painting

Arnold Houbraken (28 March 1660 – 14 October 1719) was a Dutch painter and writer from Dordrecht, now remembered mainly as a biographer of artists from the Dutch Golden Age.

Dutch people or the Dutch are a Germanic ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Aruba, Suriname, Guyana, Curaçao, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. The Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large-scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Dordrecht City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

Dordrecht, historically known in English as Dort, is a city and municipality in the Western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fifth-largest city of the province after Rotterdam, The Hague, Zoetermeer and Leiden, with a population of 118,450. The municipality covers the entire Dordrecht Island, also often called Het Eiland van Dordt, bordered by the rivers Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, Nieuwe Merwede, Hollands Diep, and Dordtsche Kil. Dordrecht is the largest and most important city in the Drechtsteden and is also part of the Randstad, the main conurbation in the Netherlands. Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland and has a rich history and culture.



Houbraken portrayal of the Commemoration of King Mausolus by Queen Artemisia. Houbraken, Arnold - Commemoration of King Mausolus by Queen Artemisia.jpg
Houbraken portrayal of the Commemoration of King Mausolus by Queen Artemisia.
Pallas Athene Visiting Apollo on the Parnassus (1703) Houbraken, Arnold - Pallas Athene Visiting Apollo on the Parnassus - 1703.jpeg
Pallas Athene Visiting Apollo on the Parnassus (1703)

Houbraken was sent first to learn threadtwisting (Twyndraat) from Johannes de Haan, who introduced him to engraving. After two years he then studied art with Willem van Drielenburch, who he was with during the rampjaar, the year 1672. He then studied 9 months with Jacobus Leveck and finally, four years with Samuel van Hoogstraten. [1] In 1685 he married Sara Sasbout, and around 1709 he moved from Dordrecht to Amsterdam. Arnold Houbraken painted mythological and religious paintings, portraits and landscapes. He is best known for the art historical work The Great Theatre of Dutch Painters (1718–1721). When he died his son Jacob assisted his mother with the last proofs of the manuscript before publishing. His first attempt at an instructive manual for artists was his Emblem book, Inhoud van 't Sieraad der Afbeelding, which was meant as a guide of possible painting themes. His registered pupils were Matthijs Balen, Johan Graham, and his son Jacob. [2]

<i>Rampjaar</i> The year 1672, in Dutch history

In Dutch history, the year 1672 was known as the rampjaar, the "disaster year." That year, following the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War and the Third Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch Republic was simultaneously attacked by England, France, and the prince-bishops Bernhard von Galen, bishop of Münster, and Maximilian Henry of Bavaria, archbishop of Cologne. The invading armies quickly defeated most of the Dutch States Army and conquered part of the Republic.

Art history the academic study of objects of art in their historical development

Art history is the study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts; that is genre, design, format, and style. The study includes painting, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

<i>The Great Theatre of Dutch Painters</i> Dictionary of artists from the Netherlands by Arnold Houbraken

The Great Theatre of Dutch Painters, or De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, as it was originally known in Dutch, is a series of artist biographies with engraved portraits written by the 18th-century painter Arnold Houbraken. It was published in three volumes as a sequel to Karel van Mander's own list of biographies known as the Schilder-boeck. The first volume appeared in 1718, and was followed by the second volume in 1719, the year Houbraken died. The third and last volume was published posthumously by Houbraken's wife and children in 1721. This work is considered to be a very important source of information on 17th-century artists of the Netherlands. The Schouburg is listed as one of the 1000 most important works in the Canon of Dutch Literature from the Middle Ages to today.


Houbraken had ten children. His son Jacobus Houbraken (1698–1780) was an engraver of portraits and book illustrations, including books by his father. His daughter Antonina Houbraken also became an engraver for an Amsterdam publisher, and is known today for her embellishment of cityscapes and buildings with animals and people. His daughter Christina Houbraken was also an artist.

Jacobus Houbraken

Jacobus Houbraken was a Dutch engraver and the son of the artist and biographer Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), whom he assisted in producing a published record of the lives of artists from the Dutch Golden Age.

Antonina Houbraken was an 18th-century Dutch draughtswoman who is known for her many topographical drawings of Dutch sites. She also drew landscapes. She is recorded as a skilled portraitist.

Christina Houbraken (1695–1760s) was an 18th-century artist from the Northern Netherlands.


Arnold Houbraken's books sold quite well during the entire 18th century. Jacob Campo Weyerman published his updated version (1729–47) in serial form that was published as a complete set in 1769. [3] Houbraken's engravings of the artists are in some cases the only surviving portraits of these people.

Jacob Campo Weyerman 18th century painter and writer from the Netherlands

Jacob Campo Weyerman was an eccentric painter and writer during the period known as the Dutch Enlightenment. His work encompassed flower and fruit still life paintings, satirical magazines, plays, and biographies of painters. He usually signed his paintings Campovivo.

The first to make a published sequel to Houbraken's work was Johan van Gool in 1750-51. [4] Though these books published well, with changing fashions, during the course of the 19th century Houbraken fell out of favor with art historians, especially when his sketches were found wanting, incorrect, or even slanderous. Houbraken was very careful to check and double check his sources, and today many of his personal judgements still stand up to our modern scrutiny. Attacks of his judgement due to the spelling of artist's names or accusations that he was nationalistic and deemed all of these artists as "Netherlandish" must be dismissed on the grounds that the various borders between the Netherlands, Germany, and Flanders were far from decided in the period during which he was writing, and spelling conventions in the Netherlands regarding names were only introduced by Napoleonic decree in the 1790s. Excepting those cases where the artist died quite young, or whose oeuvre was lost during various wars, very few artists were included in the Schouburg who do not hang in international museums today.

The first modern art historian to publish an update of his work was Adriaan van der Willigen, in 1866. [5] Since then he has remained a valuable resource for art historians.

Adriaan van der Willigen art historian from the Northern Netherlands

Adriaan van der Willigen was a Dutch writer of plays and travelogues who is mostly remembered today for his comprehensive list of painter biographies.

The Schouburgh is part of the Basic Library of the dbnl (Database of Dutch Literature) which contains the 1000 most important works in Dutch literature from the Middle Ages to today. [6]

Public collections


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  1. "Dictionary for Art Historians". Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  2. Arnold Houbraken in the RKD
  3. Jacob Campo Weyerman on Google books . Retrieved 13 June 2012 via Google Books.
  4. Johan van Gool in Google books . Retrieved 13 June 2012 via Google Books.
  5. Adrian van der Willigen in Google books. 2 September 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2012 via Google Books.
  6. Website of the Basic Library of the dbnl, the section on the Eighteenth century (in Dutch)
  7. Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  8. "Search - Rijksmuseum". Rijksmuseum.