Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Along with Gerrit van Honthorst, Ter Brugghen was one of the most important painters among the Utrecht Caravaggisti. It is not definitely known where the artist was born, although it may have been in Utrecht or The Hague. Documentation in The Hague on the artist’s father, the lawyer Jan Egbertsz. ter Brugghen, has led to the suggestion that he may have been born there. Ter Brugghen studied in Utrecht with Abraham Bloemaert and around 1605 made a study trip to Italy. He lived in Rome for about ten years where he made contact with other Caravaggesque painters such as Carlo Saraceni and Orazio Gentileschi, from whom he learned the technique of chiaroscuro. Despite his lengthy time in Rome, no works from this period by the artist are known. In 1614 he is again documented in Utrecht, registering in the painters’ guild along with Thijman van Galen, who had also returned from Italy. Ter Brugghen’s first known work dates from that year, namely The Supper at Emmaus (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio). It has been suggested that the artist may have made a second trip to Italy around 1620, the period when his works manifest a greater interest in tenebrism, but there is no documentary evidence for this idea. His presence in Utrecht from 1622 is clear from the appearance of his name in a number of documents, and Ter Brugghen died there in 1629. His career spanned the years 1614 to 1629 and he is most noted for his religious and genre paintings, among which his figures of flute players and young boys are particularly celebrated. They are constructed using dark tones juxtaposed against pale backgrounds, anticipating some elements of the art of Vermeer. Ter Brugghen’s work has been divided into two periods: an early one of between 1615 and 1624, corresponding to the years immediately after his return to Utrecht, and a second one from 1625 to 1629, considered his mature period. Among the artist’s best paintings are The Calling of Saint Matthew of 1621 (Central Museum, Utrecht), Saint Sebastian of 1625 (Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College, Ohio), and The Crucifixion of around 1625 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Ter Brugghen’s paintings are considered an important link between the Roman Baroque and the Delft School.