The biography of Willem van Aelst (1627 - 1683)

Willem van Aelst (May 16, 1627, Delft - in or after 1683, Amsterdam) was a Dutch artist who specialized in still-life painting with flowers or game.

Van Aelst was born to a family of prominent city magistrates. He learned to paint from his uncle, the still-life painter Evert van Aelst.

In 1643 he enrolled in the Delft painters' guild. Between 1645 and 1649 he lived in France. In 1649 Van Aelst travelled to Florence, where he served as court painter to Ferdinando II de' Medici. His signature, Guill[er]mo van Aelst, reflects his Italian experience. While in Italy, he encountered other Dutch naturalist painters who may have influenced the development of Van Aelst’s detailed style.

In 1656 he returned to the Netherlands. In 1657, he settled in Amsterdam and painted his famous still-life paintings that depicted glassware, silver, fruit, and flowers much like the Willem Kalf's luxurious compositions. He also produced over sixty game pictures between 1652 and 1681. Each contains the hunter's quarry along with scrupulous studies of guns, leather pouches, powder horns, and other hunting accessories set on marble slabs. He became one of the most prominent still-life painters of his generation, which allowed him to live on the Prinsengracht. He must have died in 1683 or shortly thereafter, as his latest dated work is from that year.