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Joos van Cleve: life and works

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By Gwylym Owen

Joos van Cleve (; also Joos van der Beke; c. 1485-1490 – 1540/1541) was a leading painter nimble in Antwerp from his coming on there on the subject of 1511 to his death in 1540 or 1541. Within Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, he combines the usual techniques of Early Netherlandish painting considering influences of more contemporary Renaissance painting styles.

An active advocate and co-deacon of the Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp, he is known mostly for his religious works and portraits, some of royalty. He ran a large workshop, with at least five pupils and additional assistants, which produced paintings in a variety of styles exceeding his career. As a gifted technician, his art shows hypersensitivity to color and a unique solidarity of figures. His style is terribly eclectic: he was one of the first to introduce expansive world landscapes in the backgrounds of his paintings, sometimes collaborating similar to Joachim Patinir, which would become a popular technique of sixteenth century northern Renaissance paintings. Some works reflect the popular style of Antwerp Mannerism, while others are variations upon early Netherlandish masters of two or more generations before, or reflect recent Italian painting.

Four of his more important paintings have the monogram “JB”, presumably for Joos van der Beke, rather inconspicuously placed. In three supplementary works a self-portrait is placed in the middle of the youth figures. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, the declare of Joos van Cleve as an performer was lost. Some of the paintings now recognized to Joos van Cleve were, at that time, known as the works of the “Master of the Death of the Virgin”, after the triptych in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. In 1894 it was discovered that the monogram upon the put in the works to of the triptych was that of Joos van der Beke, the real name of Joos van Cleve. His oeuvre was reconstructed in the 1920s and 1930s by Ludwig von Baldass and Max Jakob Friedländer. Now exceeding 300 works are generally approved to him or his workshop, which adjust considerably in both tone and style.

He was the daddy of Cornelis van Cleve (1520-1567) who along with became a painter, and inherited the workshop. Cornelis became mentally sick during a address in England and was for that reason referred to as ‘Sotte Cleef’ (mad Cleef).

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