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Dutch Painting

Interior with a Lady Peeling an Apple

Gerrit ter Borch
Oil on canvas on panel, 36.3 × 30.7 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Interior with a Lady Peeling an Apple, Gerrit Terborch

Gerrit ter Borch
Zwolle 1617–Deventer 1681

Ter Borch (also spelled Terborch, or Terburg) developed his own distinctive type of interior genre in which he depicted with grace and fidelity the atmosphere of well-to-do, middle-class life in seventeenth-century Holland.

Ter Borch was one of the most accomplished painters of seventeenth-century Holland, enjoying a considerable reputation in his own day. In the 1640s he adopted a new pictorial type, the full-length portrait, and he contributed to the development of a new genre type, showing simplified interiors with a few figures in an upright format. This composition became an important format for the second half of the 1600s. These compositions are characterized by great refinement in the handling of color, light, and texture and also by a subtle psychological interplay.

Ter Borch's father had been an artist and had visited Rome but from 1621 was employed as a tax collector. Surviving drawings made by the young Ter Borch in 1625 and 1626 are proudly inscribed and dated by his father. In 1632 Gerard was in Amsterdam, and in 1634 he was a pupil of Pieter de Molijn in Haarlem. He visited England in 1635, Rome in 1640, and from 1646 spent two or three years in Münster, Westphalia, where the peace congress was in session. The masterpiece of this period, The Swearing of the Oath of Ratification of the Treaty of Münster (1648), portrays the delegates of Holland and of Spain assembled to sign the peace treaty. After a stay in Madrid he finally returned to his own country at the end of 1650, and in 1655 he settled in Deventer.

Ter Borch's works consist almost equally of portraits and genre pieces. His characteristically delicate technique can be appreciated in the portraits, which are painted on a small, almost miniature scale, though many of them are full-length. In color they tend to be subdued, due largely to the sober costume of the times, but by subtlety of tonal gradations and mastery in rendering diverse surface textures he was able to achieve an extraordinary richness of effect. Particularly characteristic is his manner of rendering satin. His superb color sense appears to greater advantage in genre subjects, though it is always employed with masterly restraint. In his earlier years he painted many guardroom subjects in the manner of Pieter Codde and Willem Duyster, but later, from about the time when he finally settled in Holland, he painted calm, exquisitely drawn groups, posed easily and naturally against shadowy backgrounds and imbued with an almost aristocratic elegance that is unique among Dutch painters of his time.

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