Netherlands • 1607−1674

Biography and information

Ian livens (Netherlands. Jan Lievens, October 24, 1607, Leiden - June 8, 1674, Amsterdam) - Dutch painter of the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Friend and rival Rembrandt, with whom a few years at the beginning of his career, he divided the workshop. Collectors of that time were closely watching the work of Livens and Rembrandt, trying to predict which of them would be more successful. Levens was a wunderkind: at the age of 12 he had the skill of an established artist, whose works were highly appreciated by his contemporaries.

Features creativity Jan Livensa: Brilliant portraitist. The patron of the artist - a poet, scientist, composer, secretary of the Prince of Orange Konstantin Huygens - noted that Livens had miraculously managed to convey the expression of a human face and his state of mind (1, 2). If Rembrandt, prone to reflection, is a virtuoso of a psychological portrait, then the ambitious Levens knew how to make the model “great and sublime” with a confident hand (1, 2). Talent to depict an ordinary person inspired and significant allowed the artist to make a successful career in the English court. It is indicative that Huygens himself commissioned his portrait to Livens, not Rembrandt.

Famous paintings by Jan Livens: "Self-portrait" (1, 2), "A boy in a raincoat and turban ”(Portrait of Prince Rupert of Palatinate), "Portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn ", "Portrait of an elderly woman - mother of Rembrandt","Players in cards","Counter at the table","St. Jerome in repentance"(2).

Jan Livens was born to a tapestry embroiderer in Leiden, his hometown and for Rembrandt, who was a year older than Jan. At the age of 8, Livens was identified as an apprentice to the artist Joris van Skuten, and two years later, in 1617, he continued his studies in Amsterdam with Peter Lastmanspecializing in "high genre" - historical paintings. A gifted young man, whose talent was obvious to a mentor, returned home in 1619 and at a very early age began a successful independent career - he painted pictures on religious and allegorical subjects. The choice of composition and experiments with kyaroskuro of the early period of creativity were influenced by “Utrecht caravaggists” and works Peter Paul Rubens. In 1625 another student of Lastman, Rembrandt, returned to Leiden, with whom he acquired the character of creative competition: artists often pose for each other, paint pictures of the same subjects.
In 1628, the secretary of the Prince of Orange Konstantin Huygens, who would become the patron saint of Livens, became interested in their work: he would invite him to The Hague to paint his portrait. On the recommendation of Huygens, the Prince of Orange Frederick Heinrich will acquire a picture from Levens and present it as a gift to the English ambassador, who will give it to his monarch, King Charles I.
In The Hague, Livens meets an admirer of his Anthony Van Dyckand in 1631 he left for London, having accepted the invitation of the English king to become a court painter. In the spring of 1635, financially secured Jan Livens moves to Antwerp, where, no longer bound by the need to work on order, he enjoys landscape painting. The fame of him comes to his native Leiden, and in 1639 he receives an honorary order - to write an allegory “The generosity of Scipio” for the town hall.
An artist who loved to live on a grand scale is forced to hide from creditors in Amsterdam, where he soon improves his financial situation thanks to orders from the local elite - he paints portraits in the popular style of Van Dyck. Imitation will play a cruel joke with the master: over time, he loses his own style. Nevertheless, large contracts follow one after another: Livens becomes the only artist who is commissioned to paint the walls of the royal residence of Hys-ten-Bos in the Hague, the town hall in Amsterdam, the city palace in Berlin.

Jan Livens died on June 4, 1674 in Amsterdam. His lifetime glory was consumed by posthumous oblivion: the children of the artist were forced to abandon the inheritance in order to pay huge paternal debts, many portraits written by Livens were attributed to Rembrandt, and his canvases for the English royal court were completely lost.

Author: Anna Pashina