Terborch (ter Borch)

Netherlands • 1617−1681
Gerard ter Borch the Younger (also known as Terborch or Terburg; 1617, Zwolle, Netherlands — 8 December 1681, Deventer) was a Dutch artist of the Baroque era who developed his own special type of genre interior, in which he elegantly and impeccably conveyed the atmosphere of life of the Dutch wealthy middle class of the 17th century.

Peculiar features of Gerard ter Borch's art. The artist’s legacy is composed of portraits and genre works in equal shares. His characteristic delicate technique can be seen in small, almost miniature portraits, many of which nonetheless represent full-length models (1, 2, 3). The colour palette of these paintings is usually subdued, which is largely due to the restrained costumes of the time. But thanks to the subtlety of the shade gradations and the artistic skill in conveying a variety of textures, ter Borch achieved unusually rich effects. In genre scenes, the artist demonstrated an excellent sense of colour, although he used paints with masterly restraint.

In his early years, ter Borch painted many scenes in guardhouses (1, 2, 3) in style Pieter Codde and Willem Deister. But later, when he finally settled in Holland, he turned to depicting graceful calm compositions, with the subjects that were painted against a dark background with an almost aristocratic elegance. This style distinguishes Gerard ter Borch among the Dutch artists of the time. His most famous works are The Ratification of the Treaty of Munster (1648), The Letter (1660s), The Concert (c. 1657) and "The Gallant Conversation (The Paternal Admonition) (1654–55).


Gerard ter Borch the Younger was born into the family of the artist Gerard ter Borch the Elder, who later became a tax collector. The boy received his first drawing lessons from his father, probably soon after the death of his mother Anna Bufkens. The boy developed very quickly: in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, there is a perfect drawing of a figure from the back, dated 25 September 1625, when the future painter was only eight years old.

At the age of fifteen, ter Borch the Younger moved to Amsterdam and then studied with the renowned landscape painter Pieter de Molijn in Harlem. In 1635, he completed his studies and joined the Harlem Guild of St. Luke. But as soon as the young man got on his feet, he was seized by a passion for travel. He went to London, later visited Italy, Spain, France and Flanders. In Madrid, ter Borch was appreciated so highly that even King Philip IV himself posed for him (the portrait has not survived and is only now known from a replica).

It is not known for how long the artist stayed in Spain, but in about 1640 he returned to the Dutch Republic. Probably due to his connections in Amsterdam, he was included in the Dutch delegation that ratified the peace treaty with Spain in Münster on 15 May 1648. This historic event, which ended the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain, was captured by Gerard ter Borch in his group portrait, where the Dutch delegates were depicted with their raised fingers on the left, and the Spaniards were on the right with their hands on the Gospel. After that, the artist received a gold chain with a medallion from the King of Spain.

On 14 February 1654, ter Borch married Geertruyt Matthys, his stepmother’s sister, and settled with her in Deventer. A year later, he received his citizenship, and in 1666 he was appointed gemeensman (city councillor), although he did not become alderman or burgomaster. Despite the fact that the artist travelled to Amsterdam, The Hague and Haarlem, he lived in Deventer until his death on 8 December 1681. According to his will, his body was transported to Zwolle and buried in the family grave in the church of St. Michael.

Gerard Terborch influenced other prominent genre painters, such as Gabriel Metsu, Peter de Hooch and Jan Vermeer, while Kaspar Netscher (1639 - 1684) is considered his most talented student. The latter adopted many of his teacher’s techniques for creating luxurious textures and, apparently, in addition to his original compositions, he made a number of signed copies of the mentor’s works. 

The painter's extensive legacy has survived thanks to his half-sister and colleague Gesina ter Borch, who managed the family collection and posed for her brother multiple times (1, 2).  (1, 2). The drawings remained in the hands of their descendants until 1886, when they were moved to the Rijksmuseum. This rich and varied collection provides a unique insight into the development of the artistic family on the periphery of the Dutch Republic during the Golden Age.

Written by Vlad Maslov

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