Olga's Gallery

Jan Steen Biography

Dutch genre painter Jan Steen was born in Leiden c. 1625/26 into the family of a brewer. He enrolled briefly at the university in 1646, but very soon turned to painting. Steen probably received his training in Utrecht from Nicolaes Knüpfer, and worked in the workshops of Adriaen van Ostade in Haarlem and van Goyen in The Hague, whose daughter he married in 1649. He remained in The Hague until 1654, and then moved to Delft (1654-56), where he took over a brewery, which soon failed. The next five years Steen lived in Warmond near Leiden. From 1661 till 1670 he was in Haarlem, and finally settled for the last ten years of his life again in Leiden where he obtained a license to run a tavern (since 1672).

Steen painted genre and bible subjects, landscapes and portraits. He is one of the most cheerful Dutch painters of the XVII century; this was probably influenced of his bright, sociable and good-natured character. The evolution of his work reflects his susceptibility to different trends in Holland painting, various methods and techniques of his contemporaries; tending sometimes towards Ostade and Brouwer, then again towards de Hooch, Terborch or Vermeer. This variety of manner made Steen’s painting diverse, but his best works are on level with his time’s achievements.

Inclined to humorous situations, Steen paid much attention to relations of his characters, their poses, body language, gestures and facial expressions. Sometimes he depicted himself and his family in merry company, sometimes used folk proverbs as his subjects. Bible subjects he also rendered through genre compositions. Steen was an extremely productive painter, and left about 800 paintings.

The artist died in Leiden in 1679.


Holland Genre Painting. XVII century. by E. Fehner. Moscow. Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo. 1979.

Painting of Western Europe. XVII century by E. Rotenberg. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1989.

Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.

Jan Steen, Painter and Storyteller by H. Perry Chapman, Arthur K., Jr. Wheelock (Editor), Wouter Th Kloek (Contributor). Natl Gallery of Ar, 1996.

The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the Seventeenth Century by Mariet Westermann. B.V. Waanders Uitgeverji, 1999.

Jan Steen 1626-1679 by Wouter Kloek. B.V. Waanders Uitgeverji, 2006.

Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson by John Walsh. Getty Trust Publications, 1996.

The Religious and Historical Paintings of Jan Steen by Baruch D. Kirschenbaum. Abner Schram, 1984.