Ter Borch was a portraitist and genre painter who was born in Zwolle in 1617. He first trained with his father Gerard ter Borch the Elder and was a precocious child who had already produced drawings and studies of fine quality by the age of eight, including the Knight in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Ter Borch completed his training in Haarlem with the landscape painter Pieter de Molijn, in whose studio he is documented in 1634, and in 1635 his name is registered in the painters’ guild in that city. That same year Ter Borch travelled to London to work in the studio of his uncle Robert van Voerst, returning to Holland in 1636. During the second half of the 1630s he travelled to Germany, Italy, France and Spain, arriving in the latter in 1639. In late 1645 he travelled to Münster in the company of Adriaen Pauw. He returned there in 1648 and witnessed the ratification of the Peace of Westphalia, an event that he depicted in his painting The Swearing of the Ratification of the Treaty of Münster (London, National Gallery). In 1653 Ter Borch was in Delft and in 1654 in Deventer here he married Geertruyt Matthys, remaining there until his death in 1681.
Ter Borch’s first paintings depict soldiers in the Haarlem style. He then moved on to small-format, full-length portraits and above all to depictions of domestic interiors. These include The paternal Admonition of around 1655–56, now identified as a brothel scene (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), The Concert of around 1661–62 (also Berlin), and The Letter of the early 1660s (British Royal Collection). These works, which are almost all of small format like his portraits, are composed using a limited number of figures and a painstaking treatment of the light. Ter Borch paid particular attention to the depiction of the different materials and textures of the clothes and even his most everyday subjects have a distinctive elegance. Ter Borch’s oils deploy great delicacy and a remarkably subtle sense of colour. He had few followers, the most notable of whom was Caspar Netscher.