Hendrick Terbrugghen was a painter of religious subjects and genre scenes. The artist, along Dirck van Baburen and Gerrit van Honthorst, was one of the most influential of the Dutch Caravaggisti, also known as Utrecht Caravaggisti.
Terbrugghen started painting at the age of 13, studying under Mannerist painter Abraham Bloemaert, from whom he learned the basics of art. However, around his 16 years old, Terbrugghen traveled to Italy in order to further develop his skills, an unusual practice for Dutch painters at the time.
Since Terbrugghen arrived in Rome in 1604, some scholars believe he could have been in direct contact with Caravaggio, who fled the city two years later, following a murder charge. However, Terbrugghen undeniably studied his works and of his followers, the Caravaggisti, such as Gentileschi’s.
Caravaggio’s artwork had quite an impact in Italy. Therefore, Terbrugghen would also be influenced by his work, much so he later became a leading member of the Dutch Caravaggisti. In his time in Italy, Terbrugghen would also be affected by the artworks of Domenichino, Guido Reni, and Annibale Carracci, to name some.
Terbrugghen returned to Utrecht in 1621 and started working alongside Gerrit van Honthorst. His favorite subjects were large scale religious pictures, as well as half-length genre scenes, often depicting musicians and drinkers. As seen in Caravaggio’s work, Terbrugghen heavily relied on a keen use of light and shadow to enhance the dramatic element of his already emotionally charged compositions.
Although he died relatively young, at the age of 41, Terbrugghen was able to achieve recognition in his lifetime and beyond. Paul Rubens would even regard him as “above all the other Utrecht artists.”
Terbrugghen undoubtedly studied Caravaggio’s artworks thoroughly, as the latter’s paintings were quite famous during Terbrugghen’s time in Rome. The style of painting called Tenebrism was Caravaggio’s most significant stylistic influence on Terbrugghen. Said style was notable for its striking contrast between shadow and light, resulting in a powerful and dramatic composition.
Terbrugghen’s most explored subjects were half-length pictures of musicians and drinkers, although he also executed larger-scale group portraits and religious images.