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Marten van Cleve

1527 – Antwerp – 1581

Marten van Cleve was the son of the painter Willem van Cleve and the pupil of Frans Floris. In 1551, he became a Master of the Antwerp guild, the very same year as his contemporary, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. It is important to note that van Cleve never travelled to Italy, even though this was customary at the time for numerous young painters from northern Europe.

The influence of Pieter Aertsen can clearly be seen in his early works. The popular, peasant scenes of his later works prove the artist’s taste for the world of Pieter Brueghel. Like the latter, Marten van Cleve painted many aspects of life in the countryside with an acute sense of reality. We know that Pieter Brueghel the Younger, who was inspired by the work of his famous father, also drew inspiration from several of van Cleve’s paintings. A number of characteristics can be found in all the works of the Marten van Cleve: the women’s white headdresses are larger than those painted by the Brueghels, and the strings are sometimes knotted above their heads. In addition, his paintings are never complete without a dog, which is nearly always portrayed in profile. This exceptional artist worked with his brother Hendrik, a landscape painter, as well as with the Grimmers and Gillis van Coninxloo.