There are poetry and calmness in de Hooch’s depictions of courtyards in Delft. He, almost single-handedly, invented and mastered this new kind of cityscape.
In his paintings, viewers are invited to take a look through an open doorway at quiet domestic scenes from the life of residents. Thanks to that unusual, a little bit voyeuristic point of view we got the sense of intimacy. De Hooch have had the rare capability of grasping silence in his canvas.
Oddly enough, earlier in his artistic career, he used to paint an absolute opposite side of Netherlanders’ life. His first genre scenes depicting peasants and soldiers are full of banter, drinking, loud music. Hustle and bustle as usual in taverns, stables, inns and brothels.
There is an entire line of Dutch artists who practiced that kind of genre painting like Adriaen van Ostade, David Teniers or Jan Steen, to name the greatest. De Hooch went smoothly from interest into peasantry pastimes to the humble duties of middle class growing rapidly in 17th-century.
De Hooch and Vermeer
While in Delft, de Hooch met fellow artists, most talented pupils of Rembrandt – Carel Fabritius and Nicolaes Maes. Later on, he became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, the very same Johannes Vermeer was already in.
We can see the mutual influence in their works. Moreover, it was Vermeer who had been influenced by de Hooch’s treatment of light and perspective, not the other way around. They also shared themes and compositions. There is now one known Vermeer’s painting we can easily detect inspiration. The Little Street owes to de Hooch setting, atmosphere and palette of colours used.
Careers of these two interweaved in strange ways. In the next centuries, Vermeer’s fame has faded away whereas de Hooch came into the spotlight. That’s why his signature was added to various works by Vermeer in order to increase their value!
With de Hooch I have another, rather unexpected association going on in my head over and over again. The intimacy of his paintings from Delft period brings to my mind that melancholic emptiness present in the works of the painter who was born over 250 years later.
That’s right, I mean Edward Hopper! Although Nighthawks painter was conceiving much more noir mood in his works, he shares with de Hooch that quality of grasping people’s isolation in an urban landscape.