Adriaen van Ostade's Images of Idyllic Rural Life
Hoffman, Jessica Lynn
Wheelock, Arthur K.
Seventeenth-century Dutch artist Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) created paintings of rural life that exude life and vitality. The artist devoted hundreds of canvases and panels to depicting rural folk enjoying a dance or a drink, singing songs, and enjoying the pleasures of the pipe. Though he inherited many aspects of the peasant genre tradition from predecessors such as Pieter Bruegel (c.1525-1569), Ostade, a lifelong resident of Haarlem, developed his own type of peasant image by depicting leisure activities in small inns and taverns that presented a sympathetic view of rural inhabitants. Ostade's mature paintings of festive country folk relied on preconceived notions about the peace and beauty of Haarlem's rural environs and were meant to enhance the idea of a peaceful rural escape for urban viewers. Through a critical examination of Ostade's oeuvre, I will compile a coherent and detailed look at the images of rural festivity that Ostade created throughout his long career. Ostade transformed traditional rollicking kermis scenes into subdued, leisurely celebrations focused on simple interactions along with singing and dancing. He changed the traditional stereotype of the festive peasant from a brutish, crude figure into a rustic, yet idyllic, rural fixture. The content people Ostade depicted in his mature work reflect the desires of an urban bourgeois class in Haarlem that prized their city's rural environs, which had long been extolled in literature and art. A thorough study of the works and the market for which they were produced illuminates the meaning and function of his animated pictures of rural life.