Ghent 1634 - Ghent c.1720
A Flemish priest, architect, draughtsman and printmaker, Lieven Cruyl was born in Ghent and received his theological training in Louvain. Between 1660 and 1664 he served as a priest in Wetteren, near Ghent, and in 1662 submitted a design for the reconstruction of the western tower of the Sint-Michielskerk in Ghent in a Late Gothic style, a project never undertaken due to lack of funds. In 1664 Cruyl left for Italy, where was to remain for the next fourteen years. He spent several years in Rome, where he produced a number of drawn views of the city. Many of his views of Rome were reproduced as prints – some by him and others by professional printmakers – to cater to the demand for souvenirs from foreign visitors to the city, and several were published as albums, notably in 1665 and 1667.
Cruyl was in Florence in 1672, Naples in 1673 and Venice in 1676; in each of these cities he made a number of drawings of urban topography, often using a ‘birds-eye’ viewpoint and characterized by a precise technique and an impressive level of detail. Cruyl was back in Ghent in 1678, but is known to have worked in Paris between 1680 and 1682 and again between 1686 and 1687. He produced a number of drawings of Paris and Versailles, as well as two imaginary views of Jerusalem, probably for King Louis XIV. He settled for good in Ghent in 1688, and died there sometime around 1720, or shortly before.
Cruyl is best known for his highly accomplished drawings and etchings of urban views in Italy and France. His topographical drawings took the form both of individual studies of particular monuments and series of urban views, often from unusual perspectives, and many are dated by month and year. The latest known drawing by the artist is dated 1690. A group of eighteen drawings of Rome by Cruyl are today in the Cleveland Museum of Art, while other topographical drawings by the artist are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre and Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and elsewhere, as well as in several Italian museums.