Attributed to Cornelis Dusart (Haarlem 1660 – 1704 Haarlem)
Study of a Man Leaning over a Barrel
Black and white chalk on blue-grey paper, black ink framing lines, 155 x 131 mm (6.1 x 5.2 inch)
Unidentified collector’s mark, possibly F. Eberhard (Lugt 5638); private collection, Germany
Dusart was born in Haarlem in 1660, the son of a church organist. In his late teens, he studied painting with the celebrated Adriaen van Ostade (1610–1685), and his earliest works relied heavily on his teacher's compositions.1 After Van Ostade's death in 1685, Dusart took over the contents of the studio and owned both Adriaen's studio holdings of drawings and those of his brother, Isaac. Dusart reworked and sold many of their drawings, and in the process assimilated their styles and subjects. He also completed or adapted oil paintings by Jan Steen, whose style inspired him to develop figures with exaggerated expressions, gestures, and clothing. Like his teacher, Adriaen van Ostade, Cornelis Dusart specialized in depicting the everyday life of the Dutch lower class. It was only after his teacher's death that Dusart developed his own, more refined style.
Dusart's depictions of peasants drinking and carousing were probably not intended as moral lessons about vice, but rather, served as a form of comedy. The satirical side of Dusart's art reflected popular theater, and his published prints had an impact on Dutch caricature. By his death in 1704, Dusart had acquired a remarkable collection by the Italian and Dutch artists who most inspired him.
This recently discovered drawing presents something of an enigma. Although it is of obvious quality and appears to have been drawn from life with confidence and vigour, specialists of Dusart’s drawings vary in opinion about its status as an autograph work. The eminent art historican Dr Bernhard Schnackenburg, formerly curator of Old Masters at the Kassel museum, and author of the catalogue raisonné of drawings by the Van Ostade brothers, considers it an autograph and typical drawing by Dusart, furthermore noting that the technique of black and white chalk on blue paper is derived from Adriaen van Ostade, and that the facial type is especially characteristic of Dusart.2 Dr Susan Anderson however, who is working on a catalogue of Duart’s drawings, considers it an anonymous work.3
The present drawing is likely to date from quite early in Dusart's career, when he was still much under the influence of Van Ostade, and can for instance be compared to a drawing of s Seated Man by Dusart in the same technique in the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam (fig.).4
1. For the artist, see Pieter Biesboer (ed.), Painting in Haarlem 1580-1850: the collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Ghent 2006, pp. 144-145 and E. Trautscholdt, ‘Beiträge zu Cornelis Dusart’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 17 (1966), p. 171-200
2. Email correspondence, 10 August 2020.
3. Email correspondence, 27 July 2020.
4. Black and white chalk on blue paper, 110 x 90 mm, inv. no. RP-T-1981-153.