The biography of Jacob de Wit (1695 - 1754)

Jacob de Wit (1695–1754) was a Dutch artist who painted many religious scenes and became famous for his door and ceiling paintings

De Wit was born in Amsterdam, December 19, 1695. He was the outstanding Dutch decorative painter of the 18th century, active mainly in his native Amsterdam. He lived on the Keizersgracht, and many of the buildings on the Keizersgracht still have door or ceiling paintings done by him. Since many of the families who lived in Amsterdam in those days had country villas, de Wit also painted in houses in the fashionable areas of Haarlem and the river Vech.

De Wit lived from 1708 to 1715 in Antwerp. While following a painting course there, he studied the work of Rubens which, at that time, was still very much in evidence in Antwerp. In particular copies of his ceiling paintings were very instructive for De Wit. He had his principal training in Antwerp and learned much from Rubens’s ceiling paintings in the Jesuit Church there.

De Wit’s style, however, was much lighter than Rubens’s, with a Rococo delicacy and charm. He was a Catholic and was the first Dutch artist since the 16th century to carry out a good deal of decorative work for Catholic churches, but he was at his best in domestic ceiling decorations (Bacchus and Ceres in the Clouds, Huis Bosckbeek, Heemstede, 1751).

On his return to Amsterdam in 1716, he soon received commissions to decorate houses and church interiors with ceiling and door panels and colourful wall-hangings. One of his paintings for a door in Heemstede now hangs in Uppsala, Sweden, in the Linnaeus museum. De Wit died in Amsterdam, November 12, 1754.

De Wit’s enormous output brought him great fame and fortune. Another of his specialties was his grey-tinted painted imitations of stucco. These grisailles were sometimes called ‘Witjes’ after the artist to whom they had brought such fame.