Wouwerman was a Dutch landscape and genre painter whose chronology is difficult to establish as few of his paintings are dated. Baptised in Haarlem in 1619, Wouwerman was the eldest son of the painter Powels Joosten Wouwerman, and his brothers Pieter and Jan were also painters. He probably initially trained with his father and, according to Cornelis de Bie, continued his studies in the studio of Frans Hals. In 1638 or 1639Wouwerman lived for a short period in Hamburg where he worked in the studio of the history painter Evert Decker. During his time in Hamburg Wouwerman married Annetje Pietersz. van Broeckhof. In 1640 he returned to Haarlem and entered the painters’ guild, of which he became vinder in 1646.
Wouwerman painted numerous landscapes with religious themes, as well as genre paintings, battle scenes, hunting parties and riding schools, all of which included the depiction of horses and riders. His work reveals the marked influence of Pieter van Laer, an artist known for his street scenes of ordinary people, which he developed and popularised in Italy during the ten years that he spent there before returning to Haarlem and continuing to work in this genre. Wouwerman was a celebrated painter in his own lifetime and by the time of his death in 1668 had achieved a considerable degree of prosperity.
Wouwerman’s scenes with horses were particularly appreciated and were imitated by numerous artists. He also painted the figures in landscapes by Jacob Ruisdael, Jan Wijnants and Cornelius Decker. Wouwerman had a large number of pupils including Nicolaes Ficke, Jacob Warnars and his own brothers. His works had a notable influence on other painters, including Adriaen van de Velde, while in the 18th century he was among the most highly appreciated of the Dutch painters. Between 1737 and 1759 the printmaker Jean Moyreau published eighty-nine engravings after Wouwerman’s paintings, which decisively contributed to the dissemination of his oeuvre.