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Willem Kalf

Birthplace: Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Nederland
Death: Died in Amsterdam, NH, Netherlands
Immediate Family:

Son of Jan Jansz Kalf and Machteld Gerritsdr van Proyen
Husband of Cornelia Pluvier
Father of Sophia Kalf; Johannes Kalff; Cornelia Calf and Samuel Kalf

Occupation: Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in still lifes.
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Willem Kalf

  • Willem Kalf (1619 – 31 July 1693) was a Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in still lifes. Later in his life, Kalf became an art dealer and appraiser.

Life and work

Willem Kalf was born in Rotterdam, in 1619. He was previously thought to have been born in 1622, but H. E. van Gelder’s important archival research has established the painter’s correct place and date of birth. Kalf was born into a prosperous patrician family in Rotterdam, where his father, a cloth merchant, held municipal posts as well. In the late 1630s, Willem Kalf travelled to Paris and spent time in the circle of the Flemish artists in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. In Paris he painted mainly small-scale rustic interiors and still-lifes. Kalf’s rustic interiors are typically dominated by groups of vegetables, buckets, pots and pans, which he arranged as a still-life in the foreground (e.g. Kitchen Still-life, Dresden, Gemäldegal; Alte Meister). Figures usually appeared only in the blurred obscurity of the background. Though painted in Paris, those pictures belong to a pictorial tradition practised primarily in Flanders in the early 17th century, by such artists as David Teniers the Younger. The only indication of the French origin of the paintings are a few objects that Flemish exponents of the same genre would not have pictured in their works. Kalf’s rustic interiors had a large influence on French art in the circle of the Le Nain brothers. The semi-monochrome still-lifes which Kalf created in Paris form a link to the banketjes or 'little banquet pieces' painted by such Dutch artists as Pieter Claesz, Willem Claeszoon Heda and others in the 1630s. During the 1640s, Kalf further developed the banketje into a novel form of sumptuous and ornate still-life (known as pronkstilleven), depicting rich groupings of gold and silver vessels. Like other still-lifes of this period, these paintings were usually expressing vanitas allegories.

Still lifes

Kalf's magnificent still-lifes vary little in their structure, and most of them actually feature the same objects. Usually, a damask cloth or tapestry is draped upon a table on which there is tableware, with gold and silver vessels, many of which have been identified as work of specific goldsmiths, such as Johannes Lutma. There is almost always a Chinese porcelain bowl, often tilted so that the fruits tumble out of it.

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How Willem Kalf came to his end

One evening on returning from a visit to Hellemans, Kalf fell over on a bridge: He certainly felt that he had been hurt; but not suspecting that it could have such dire consequences he went to bed and lay down; by the time the clock struck ten he was a corpse. Willem Kalf, in contrast, was such a friendly and considerate person that his wife said that he cared more for others than for himself.

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Willem Kalf's Timeline

November 3, 1619
Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Nederland
November 3, 1619
Rotterdam, Government of Rotterdam, South Holland, The Netherlands
August 31, 1657
Age 37
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
July 23, 1660
Age 40
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
October 25, 1662
Age 42
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
November 26, 1664
Age 45
Amsterdam, Government of Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
July 31, 1693
Age 73
Amsterdam, NH, Netherlands