Gerrit Dou, who also goes by the name Gerard, was one of the Baroque masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Born in Leiden, in April 1613, Dou began studying drawing and art from an early age under Bartholomeus Dolendo. His father worked with stained-glass, and Dou followed in his craft, training with Pieter Couwenhorn.
In his early teens, in 1628, Dou was sent by his father to study painting in the studio of the 21-year-old artist, none other than Rembrandt. Even though he remained there for a short time, about three years, this period was crucial for Dou’s career as a Baroque painter.
Rembrandt taught Dou how to master the subtleties of chiaroscuro, a technique developed during the Renaissance and adopted by Baroque painters as well. Dou also acquired unique coloring skills, which enrichened his color palette. Rembrandt’s influence in his early work is apparent, as seen in his Self Portrait.
Although Rembrandt’s influence was strong at first, Dou’s unique style and technique quickly blossomed. His paintings were small and highly intricate with detail. The painter even began to make his own brushes to create his artistic vision. He began to work for patrons that were part of royalty, as he sold several paintings to Queen Christina of Sweden, and the Dutch Royal court.
The painting A Woman Playing a Clavichord, concluded in 1665, measures 14.84 in by 11.77 and displays Dou’s fine detailing. His color palette choices are refreshing. Like other Baroque artists, Dou gave great value to the lighting of the scene, be it natural or candlelight, seen in The Astronomer by Candlelight. He would often count on the help of an object designed to help artists visualize their composition before tracing it on canvas, and consisted of a convex mirror, a concave lens, and a grided frame.
Today, Gerrit Dou is considered one of the great artists of the Dutch Golden Age and has artworks featured in the Louvre Museum, like The Dropsical Woman concluded in 1663. He became most famous for his genre paintings, depicted in the aforementioned paintings, even though both have a different approach to lighting, creating a different atmosphere in each. Dou’s artworks can also be found at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery in London. He left his legacy behind not only in his paintings but also by teaching his skills to many pupils. Among them are Frans van Mieris, Carel de Moor, Pieter Cornelisz van Slingelandt, Matthijs Naiveu, and many others.
Gerrit Dou passed away in his hometown in February 1675.