The biography of Jan Baptist Weenix (1621 - 1663)
Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660), a Dutchpainter, a pupil of Abraham Bloemaert. Weenix, despite his relatively brief career, was a very productive and versatile painter. His favourite subjects were Italian landscapes with large figures among ruins, seaside views, and, later in life, large still life pictures of dead game or dogs.
Weenix was the son of an architect and born in Amsterdam. Because of a stroke he could not speak very well, but he very much liked to read books. His mother sent him to a bookseller who was not able to deal with him. He was drawing whenever he could.
He first studied under Jan Micker, then in Utrecht under Abraham Bloemaert, again in Amsterdam under Claes Cornelisz Moeyaert. In 1643 Weenix travelled to Rome where he was calling himself “Giovanni Battista”. In Rome he was much esteemed and worked for Pope Innocent X. His wife, a daughter of Gillis d'Hondecoeter, refused to come to Rome, so Weenix returned to Amsterdam after four years to paint Italianate landscapes with ruins of ancient buildings and figures in modern dress, very reminiscent of the work of Nicolaes Berchem, who is said to have been his cousin.
In 1649 he became master of the guild of St. Luke at Utrecht and also made a portrait of René Descartes. When his brother-in-law Gijsbert d'Hondecoeter died, he trained his son Melchior d'Hondecoeter.
Later in life he changed his style entirely and painted still-life and some portraits, his very detailed style being continued by his son Jan. Now and then Weenix attempted religious scenes, one of the rare pieces of this kind being the “Jacob and Esau” at the Dresden Gallery. At the National Gallery, London is a “Hunting Scene” by Weenix, and the Glasgow Gallery has a characteristic painting of ruins.
At the end of his life he moved to a castle outside Utrecht, to concentrate on his work or for health reasons, where he died in 1660 in poor circumstances.
Weenix is represented at most of the important continental galleries, notably at Munich, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, and St Petersburg. There are typical works in Antwerp, Brighton, Cleveland Ohio, Dresden, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hartford Conn., London ( National Gallery, Wallace Collection and Kenwood), New York (Metropolitan Museum ), Paris (Louvre), Rotterdam, Utrecht and Vienna.