OIL PAINTING: The Courtyard of a House in Delft, 1658
Pieter de Hooch, born in Rotterdam in 1629 and trained in the Haarlem studio of the landscape painter Nicolaes Berchem, came to Delft in 1652. In the following year de Hooch was said to be in the service - both as a servant and a painter - of Justus de la Grange, a cloth merchant. De Hooch married in Delft in May 1654 and joined the painters' guild in September 1655. De Hooch remained in the town until 1661, when he moved to Amsterdam. In his early years De Hooch had painted scenes of soldiers and guardrooms but after his move to Delft turned to genre scenes showing young men and women eating, drinking, playing musical instruments and flirting in well-appointed interiors. These are based on actual rooms in the houses of prosperous Delft citizens, carefully described in an effective empirical perspective.
The earliest dated examples of De Hooch's Delft interiors are from 1658. He also painted a small number of closely related exterior scenes of which this painting, also from 1658, is the most outstanding example. It is unlikely to be a precisely accurate view as De Hooch used many of the same architectural elements in a second painting, also dated 1658, in which the right-hand side of the painting - where the maid and the child stand - was transformed to show a bower constructed with trellis-work beneath which two seated men and a standing woman drink and smoke. Both compositions are presumably based on quiet corners of Delft with which De Hooch was familiar. These and other paintings of De Hooch's Delft years evoke a world of quiet, domestic contentment, of pleasure taken in the performance of simple household tasks and in the appearance of well-ordered surroundings. It is an art which celebrates simple virtues, the efficient running of the home and the conscientious raising of children.