Painter, draftsman, and poet, Adriaen van de Venne rejected the international grand manner based on antique models and created a new style based on Holland's own idioms. Although largely self-taught, he also studied with local painters who may have taught him the grisaille technique--painting in shades of gray--that characterizes his later work. By 1614 he was in Middelburg, where his earliest dated paintings show the influence of the Flemish Jan Brueghel the Elder's landscapes and of Jan's father Pieter Bruegel the Elder's satirical, moralizing peasant vignettes.
Van de Venne began working as a book illustrator, print designer, political propagandist, and poet, collaborating with his brother Jan, a well-known publisher and art dealer. Holland's leading writers employed Van de Venne, whose illustrations contributed greatly to the popularity of Dutch emblem books, which combined pictures and prose to present a moral lesson. After moving to The Hague and joining the Guild of Saint Luke in 1625, Van de Venne was probably employed at court. In 1640 he became the guild's dean. He continued his book and printmaking projects and painted most of his well-known grisaille paintings, many depicting the destitute and maimed. No significant artists followed his lead.