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Gerard de Lairesse

Gerard or Gérard Lairesse was a Dutch Golden Age painter and art theorist. His broad range of skills included music and theatre. De Lairesse was influenced by the Perugian Cesare Ripa and French classicist painters such as Charles le Brun, Simon Vouet and authors such as Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine, his importance grew in the period following the death of Rembrandt. His treatises on painting and drawing, Grondlegginge Ter Teekenkonst, based on geometry and Groot Schilderboek, were influential on 18th-century painters. De Lairesse was the second son of painter Renier de Lairesse, he studied art from 1655 under Bertholet Flemalle. He worked in Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle for Maximilian Henry of Bavaria from 1660. In 1664 De Lairesse fled from Liège after an affair with two sisters, his models, led to difficulties, he travelled north with a girl named Marie Salme and married her in Visé. The couple settled in Utrecht, where a son was baptized in April 1665; when his talent as an artist was discovered by the art dealer Gerrit van Uylenburgh, he moved to Amsterdam.

De Lairesse arrived with his violin, with which he impressed Jan van Pee and Anthonie Claesz de Grebber in Uylenburgh's studio. In 1670 a son, was born. In 1671, when Van Uylenburgh tried to sell 13 paintings to Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, Hendrick Fromantiou advised the Elector to send 12 pieces back as forgeries. Fromantiou claimed the paintings were copies of Italian ones, he could point out the originals in Holland. De Lairesse was one of 51 individuals involved because of their expertise; some time De Lairesse moved to Spinhuissteeg where he became a member of the literary society Nil volentibus arduum, which seems to have gathered in his house from 1676 until 1681. In 1682 he sold copies of sheet music composed by Lully. In May 1684 he rented the nearby house of Caspar Barlaeus, his pupils Philip Tideman and Louis Abry lived there too. De Lairesse produced paintings as decorations for the Soestdijk Palace between 1676 and 1683. In 1684 he worked there for a year. In 1685 he painted works for the Loo Palace.

In 1688-1689, he decorated the civil council chamber of the Hof van Holland at the Binnenhof, presently known as the Lairesse room, with seven paintings with subjects from the history of the Roman Republic, all displaying a remarkable legal iconography. At first, De Lairesse was influenced by Rembrandt, but he focused on a more French-oriented style similar to Nicolas Poussin; the French nicknamed him the "Dutch Poussin", although he was influenced by Pierre Mignard and Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy. In Amsterdam during the second half of the 17th century, the pious austerity of the Protestant Dutch in Rembrandt's age had given way to unbridled opulence decadence, de Lairesse's classical French, or Baroque, style fitted this age perfectly, it made him one of. De Lairesse was therefore hired to adorn the interiors of government buildings and homes of wealthy Amsterdam businessmen with lavish grisailles, trompe l'oeil ceilings and wall paintings; some of these paintings still exist in the original buildings.

De Lairesse suffered from hereditary or congenital syphilis, which caused him to go blind around 1690. The saddle nose which the disease gave him is visible on the portrait which Rembrandt painted of him around 1665 and the engraving in the "Teutsche Academie" by Joachim von Sandrart. After losing his sight, De Lairesse was forced to give up painting and focused instead on lecturing twice a week. De Lairesse explicitly states that despite his blindness, he was still able to design a perfect composition, he drew on two chalk boards and was assisted by his audience and his son Johannes who collected their notes. After several years two books on art were published: Grondlegginge ter teekenkonst, published in 1701 Het groot schilderboeck, published in 1710In Het groot schilderboeck, De Lairesse expressed his disapproval of realism style used by Dutch Golden Age painters like Rembrandt, Adriaen Brouwer, Adriaen van Ostade and Frans Hals because they portrayed everyday scenes and ordinary people such as soldiers, farmers and beggars.

In De Lairesse's view, paintings ought to show lofty biblical and historical scenes, in the spirit of Karel van Mander, who felt that a complex historical allegory was the highest of genres. "A good painting has a clue, indicating what holds the composition together." He was a disciplined intellectual, inspired by the notion that only correct theory could produce good art. For him theory meant the strict adherence to rules; the ultimate purpose of the visual arts was the improvement of mankind, therefore art must, above all, be lofty and edifying. He set forth hierarchies of subject matter, of beauty itself; the artist, he said, must learn grace by mingling with the social and intellectual élite, must allow his subject matter to teach the highest moral principles, must strive for ideal beauty. He must follow upon nature but overlook its imperfections. In the main reception room there should be tapestries or paintings on the wall with life size figures... and in the kitchen, images of kitchen equipment and the spoils of the hunt, the picture of some maid, dog or cat.

De Lairesse, for whom pictorial illusionism was of utmost importance wrote about the place of pictures on walls. For ex

House at 57 Woburn Street

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