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Patinir, Joachim

Dinant (Belgium), ca. 1480 - Antwerp, 1524

This artist born on the banks of the Meuse River is considered the first Flemish landscape painter. His vast, highly personal landscapes are characterized by large expanses of terrain with high horizons and fantastic outcroppings of pointed rock that combine real and symbolic. His works’ nominal subjects are mere pretexts for the development of landscapes that are the true protagonists. He is thought to have begun his career in Bruges, where he discovered the work of Gérard David, but like David, he appears on a list of Antwerp-based masters in 1515. There, he met and befriended Albrecht Dürer, who visited the Netherlands in 1520-1521. Dürer subsequently painted his portrait and even attended his daughter’s wedding. Patinir was also friends with Quintin Massys, who painted some of the figures in his works. According to the 1574 inventory of El Escorial, that was the case with the Museo del Prado’s "Temptations of Saint Anthony". Their friendship was so lasting that Massys’ son, Cornelis, apprenticed with Patinir. Cornelis eventually married Patinir’s daughter, Francisca Buyts, and the elder painter became their tutor. In 1521, Patinir remarried, this time to Jeanne Nuyts. His life was quite short, and he produced relatively few paintings, notwithstanding certain mediocre works erroneously attributed to him. His fame is due primarily to his final paintings, whose masterful technique and creativity were praised by his peers. In his travelogue, Dürer called him "a good landscape painter", and Felipe de Guevara, a friend and artistic assessor to both Charles V and Philip II, mentions him in his "Commentaries on Painting" (1540) as one of the three greatest painters, alongside Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. His work was also very successful on the art market, especially when we recall that, in 16th-century Antwerp, artists did not work on commission. Instead, they sold finished works to their clients. From the very start, Patinir’s paintings reflect the influence of Hieronymus Bosch, although they lack that master’s satirical edge. He was also influenced by Gérard David, from whom he drew his perfect execution as well as his taste for landscape. His name appears on two early works—"Saint Jerome" (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe) and "The Flight to Egypt" (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp)—but his inscriptions on three other panels—"The Baptism of Christ" (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), "Landscape with Saint Jerome" and "The Temptations of Saint Anthony" (Museo del Prado)—may have been added at a later date. One of the most important collections of his works is a group from the monastery of El Escorial, now at the Museo del Prado. These paintings, which are fundamental for knowledge of his style, include "Saint Jerome", with a beautiful landscape in a range of greens; "Rest on the Flight to Egypt", with its particular depictions of rural life; and the magnificent "Temptations of Saint Anthony", whose figures were painted by Massys; as well as the incomparable landscape of "Crossing the River Styx", whose magnificent rendering of the Elysian Fields and the Inferno merges the classical tradition with Medieval religious thought. Patinir’s poetic imagination allowed him to express an idealized world, or one steeped in pathos, with profound sentiments, and always with perfect technique. His magnificent rendering light and shadows foreshadow, sin some aspects, the great Dutch masters of the 17th century; as well does his excellent use of color—especially his delightful range of blues and greens. Together, these traits made his works both innovative and uncommonly attractive (Piquero López, M. A. B. in: E.M.N.P, 2006, vol. V, pp. 1686-1688).

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