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Frans Snyders

1579 – Antwerp – 1657

Born in Antwerp in 1579, Frans Snyders entered the studio of Pieter Brueghel II as an apprentice in 1593, then that of Hendrick van Balen before being appointed Master of the Guild of Antwerp in 1602. From 1608 to 1609, he travelled round Italy, stopping first in Rome and then Milan, where he was welcomed by Cardinal Borromeo, to whom he had been recommended in a letter from Jan Bruehel I, announcing the forthcoming arrival of his friend.

In 1611, he married Margueretha de Vos, sister of the painters Cornelis and Paul. He became a member of the Society of Romanists in Antwerp in 1618, and was made dean in 1619. It was upon his return from Italy in 1609 that he decided to dedicate himself to still lifes. His fame and success was so rapid that it quickly exceeded the borders of his country, as proven by Philip IV of Spain’s commissions for the ‘Torre de la Parada’ or those of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. He made an essential contribution to the development of still life painting. Around 1610, under the influence of Rubens – who became his friend and for whom he worked between 1611 and 1619 – and with the experience he gained in Italy, he participated in a fundamental renewal of this art form and the formulas inherited from P. Aertsen and J. Beuckelaer. In his paintings, he established an innovative rich, decorative style never used until then. Calm and regular compositions, dominated by simple but well-structured geometric patterns, sought to solve the problem of relationships between sumptuously arranged volumes. Most often intended for private collections, his smaller paintings are dominated by a vigorous and precise technique that tends towards an almost illusionist realism, while intensifying the volumes and a vitality rarely achieved in painting. Few people directly copied this painter, who was also one of the most brilliant Flemish colourists of the 17th century. Nevertheless, he had a lasting influence on his contemporaries as well as the whole of French 18th century painting.