Jan Steen
painter from the Northern Netherlands



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Jan Steen
painter from the Northern Netherlands
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Birth Date


Death Date

February 03, 1679

Arty Fact

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Jan Steen was born in Leiden to a good Catholic family and was the oldest of at least eight children.  

Steen’s parents were brewers and owned a tavern, so whenever people wanted to party they’d turn to the Steens. Seriously, a “Jan Steen household” means a messy one because that was what Steen often painted--and we can only assume he painted what he knew.

Steen went to the same school as Rembrandt, and there must be something in the water there because he picked up the art bug, too.  In 1684, Steen and Gabriël Metsu founded the Painters' Guild of Saint Luke at Leiden. Shortly after, he moved in with artist Jan van Goyen and, with the speed of a cheetah, swept up the man’s daughter and married her. Then, just like his parents, he had eight kids and ran a brewery.  When the art market was decent, he continued to paint.  But a bunch of tragedies befell Steen in a short number of years.  His wife died in 1669, his father died in 1670, and the art market collapsed in 1672--the Year of Disaster.  Following the collapse, Steen opened a tavern, remarried and became president of the Saint Lucas Guild.  Life goes in circles.

As noted, Steen is known for the “Jan Steen household.”  However, despite growing up in the perfect environment for a wild and crazy guy, it’s pretty much accepted that these paintings are supposed to be a warning rather than an invitation. 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Jan Steen

Jan Havickszoon Steen (c. 1626 – buried 3 February 1679) was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century (also known as the Dutch Golden Age). His works are known for their psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour.


Steen was born in Leiden, a town in Southern Holland, where his well-to-do, Catholic family were brewers who ran the tavern The Red Halbert for two generations. Steen's father even leased him a brewery of his own in Delft from the years 1654 until 1657. He was the eldest of eight or more children. Like his even more famous contemporary Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen attended the Latin school and became a student in Leiden. He received his painterly education from Nicolaes Knupfer (1603–1660), a German painter of historical and figurative scenes in Utrecht. Influences of Knupfer can be found in Steen's use of composition and colour. Other sources of inspiration were Adriaen van Ostade and Isaac van Ostade, painters of rural scenes, who lived in Haarlem. Whether Steen actually studied with Ostade is not known.

In 1648 Jan Steen and Gabriël Metsu founded the painters' Guild of Saint Luke at Leiden. Soon after he became an assistant to the renowned landscape painter Jan van Goyen (1596–1656), and moved into his house on the Bierkade in The Hague. On Oct 3, 1649 he married van Goyen's daughter Margriet, with whom he would have eight children. Steen worked with his father-in-law until 1654, when he moved to Delft, where he ran the brewery De Slang ("The Snake") for three years without much success. After the explosion in Delft in 1654 the art market was depressed, but Steen painted A Burgomaster of Delft and his daughter. It does not seem to be clear if this painting should be called a portrait or a genre work.

Steen lived in Warmond, just north of Leiden, from 1656 till 1660 and in Haarlem from 1660 till 1670 and in both periods he was especially productive. In 1670, after the death of his wife in 1669 and his father in 1670, Steen moved back to Leiden, where he stayed the rest of his life. When the art market collapsed in 1672, called the Year of Disaster, Steen opened a tavern. In April 1673 he married Maria van Egmont, who gave him another child. In 1674 he became president of the Saint Lucas Guild. Frans van Mieris (1635- 1681) became one of his drinking companions. He died in Leiden in 1679 and was interred in a family grave in the Pieterskerk.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Jan Steen.