Jacob Adriaensz. BACKER

Harlingen 1608 - Amsterdam 1651


Among the most successful portrait painters working in Amsterdam in the 1630s and 1640s, Jacob Backer studied in Leeuwarden in the atelier of Lambert Jacobsz., where among his fellow pupils was the younger Govert Flinck. In 1632 Backer settled in Amsterdam, and his earliest painting is dated to that year. It was in Amsterdam that he came under the influence of Rembrandt, although he may never have actually studied with him. Apart from portraits, Backer’s oeuvre as a painter includes allegorical and mythological scenes, portraits and group portraits, and religious subjects. Paintings of children were also a particular speciality of Backer’s studio. The artist died relatively young, in his early forties, and after his death a commemorative medal was struck in his honour.

Around eighty drawings by Backer have survived to this day, many of which are studies in black and white chalk of single figures, both nude and clothed, drawn on blue paper. Relatively few of Backer’s drawings are dated or datable, so placing his work as a draughtsman in some sort of chronological order is something of a challenge. Backer’s drawings remained popular with collectors long after his death. In his biography of the artist, the late 17th century Dutch painter and writer Arnold Houbraken wrote: ‘I had almost forgotten to mention (and this would have damaged his fame by omission) his excellent manner of drawing...One can almost see from the zeal of paper art lovers when his drawings come up for sale just what regard they have for them.’