b. 1608 Harlingen, The Netherlands, d. 1651 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When Rembrandt van Rijn settled in Amsterdam in about 1631, students flocked to him; participation in his workshop seemed to assure success. Following that pattern, Jacob Adriaensz. Backer studied with Rembrandt for a short time after years of training in Leeuwarden, Holland, and in no time, he was successful. By 1633 the Amsterdam Orphan Home had commissioned a group portrait from him, and he painted three more large groups during his short career. Though he also painted mythological and allegorical works, Backer became known as a portrait specialist. Backer's style is characterized by quiet restraint, smooth, thin paint, and ornamental brushwork. His lighting can be more diffused than Rembrandt's focused, expressive illumination. During the 1640s Backer fell under the spell of Bartholomeus van der Helst's fashionably pale, cool tonality, but the warmth of Backer's palette during the last decade of his life indicates that he continued to study Rembrandt's works. Backer was one of Amsterdam's most famous painters. A 1649 print portraying Backer bears the inscription, "excellent painter in the large . . . who knows very well how to make a good nude." When he died in his early forties, a commemorative medal was struck in his honor.
Dutch, about 1650