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Cornelis Dusart

(1660–1704, Haarlem)

Peasant Walking with a Stick. Pen and black ink, watercolour over black chalk, white heightening, on vellum. 12 x 7 cm. Signed (faded): “Corn: Dusart Fe”. Circa 1680–95.

This small, charming watercolour on vellum dates to Dusart’s late period. The artist, who worked his whole life in Haarlem, was apprenticed to Adriaen van Ostade in 1675 and admitted, as a free master, to the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke in January 1679. His extensive oeuvre of paintings and drawings marks the final high point of the peasant genre in Dutch art.

Dusart’s style was greatly influenced by his master Ostade; after the latter’s death Dusart acquired the contents of his studio, including a substantial stock of partly unfinished paintings, drawings and prints. A further major source of creative inspiration was Jan Steen’s genre painting with its moralistic and satirical undertones. Dusart apparently suffered poor health from his childhood days and, having remained a bachelor all his life, died in Haarlem in 1704.

It is difficult to provide an exact date for this small sheet, since the artist produced a considerable number of watercolours on vellum during the 1680s and 1690s. The works in this stylistic phase include highly finished, in-depth compositions, but also detailed studies of heads or, as in the present sheet, of individual figures. Dusart’s subtle colourism generally regarded as a very significant contribution to 17th-century Dutch figure drawing. In this respect, too, van Ostade was crucial in shaping his style, often using watercolours to give greater visual appeal to his pen-and-chalk character studies. Small studies like the present drawing were much sought-after collector’s items while Dusart was still alive.                 

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