Jacob Grimmer, a contemporary of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, was born in Antwerp circa 1525 where he completed his apprenticeship in 1539. Pupil of figures such as Gabriel Bauwens, Mathys Cock and Cerstian van den Queckborn, he became a free master in 1547. He married in 1548, and later had four children. It seems he travelled to Italy as he was of great service to young painters at the time.
His work marked a major turning point in the development of 16th century Flemish landscape painting. His interpretation of landscape, inspired by the views of the areas surrounding Antwerp, and the rural scenes he includes within, demonstrate a new conception of an exceptional maturity.
Simplified and plain landscapes, which appeared towards the middle of the century, were his invention. The fantastic panoramas, gigantic whimsically-shaped rocks and natural undulations still dear to Lucas Gassel, were abandoned in favour of a simplicity and authenticity never achieved before. Colours also became more real, in a constant desire to portray well-constructed and atmospheric values and an effort to respect the composition’s overall unity.
He often liked to fill his landscapes with figures and small anecdotal scenes in the same spontaneity and naturalist vision, rather than giving a fatalistic explanation of things as Pieter Bruegel would have done. Marten van Cleve and Gillis Mostaert collaborated with him as he greatly influenced and inspired numerous painters such as his son Abel, Gillis van Coninxloo, Jan Brueghel II and Jan Wildens.