The Drawing Lesson


Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson

John Walsh


104 pages

PDF file size: 6.76 MB


“Clear, solid, palpable”—this is the world of the Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, a world in which the surfaces and scenes of everyday life are rendered with impeccable care, illuminated by clear, soft light. Through the countless reproductions of the works of such painters as de Hooch and Vermeer, these scenes have become intimately familiar: servants at their kitchen chores; well-dressed women reading or playing music; risqué and often riotous scenes in bedrooms or inns—these are among the most captivating examples of the art of the Netherlands in its Golden Age. But while the interior Steen paints is familiar, the subject—a celebration of the art of the painter—is unusual and only subtly conveyed.

In this fascinating exploration of The Drawing Lesson, John Walsh offers an explanation of the individual parts and larger patterns of the work, showing how each prop and pose contribute to the greater theme. He also recounts Steen’s career and a history of the picture itself, compares it to other studio scenes, and discusses the education of an artist in the seventeenth century. This is not only an examination of a fine painting but a lesson in how to look at and “read” a complex work of art.

Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson is part of the Getty Museum Studies on Art, a series designed to introduce individual works of note or small groups of related works to a broad public with an interest in the history of art.

Each monograph is written by a leading scholar and features a close discussion of its subject as well as a detailed analysis of the broader historical and cultural context in which the work was created.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • A Familiar Face
  • Picturing the Workshop
  • The Training of a Painter
  • Another Look Around
  • Notes on the Literature
  • Acknowledgments

About the Authors

John Walsh has been director of the J. Paul Getty Museum since 1983. Educated at Yale, Columbia, and the University of Leiden, he has done curatorial work at the Frick Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and has taught art history at Columbia and Harvard.