(Tilburg 1746 – 1822 Paris)
One of the most gifted still life painters of the eighteenth-century, Gerard van Spaendonck had complete technical mastery of flower painting in all mediums and on every scale, from miniatures in gouache, to full-size Salon canvases in oil, and even paintings on marble, such as the Colnaghi picture. Like Jan van Huysum, the most celebrated eighteenth-century Dutch still life painter, he understood how to adapt flower painting to the tastes of his day. His work combines the masterful observation of detail found in seventeenth-century Dutch still life painting with French sophistication and breathtaking refinement. In fact, the year 1769, when Gerard went to Paris, is an important date in the history of flower painting: for the first time, flower painting left its traditional centre in the Low Countries.
Born to a Dutch family of artists, Gerard and his brother Cornelis, also a painter, were the sons of Jan Anthony van Spaendonck. His father was the steward of the seignory of Tilburg, which belonged to the Prince of Hesse-Kassel. The Prince had one of the finest gardens in the area, and this undoubtedly had a strong influence on the young Gerard. In 1764 Spaendonck was apprenticed to the decorative painter Guillaume-Jacques Herreyns in Antwerp, and five years later he moved to Paris. Appointed miniature painter to the newly crowned Louis XVI in 1774, he made his debut at the Salon in 1777. In 1780, he became professor of flower painting at the Jardin des Plantes and the following year was elected a member of the Académie. He then began contributing to the Vélins du Roi, a series of botanical studies painted on vellum, and in doing so changed from the traditional medium of gouache to watercolour. Spaendonck exhibited two of these flower studies on vellum, along with five oils, at the Salon of 1783 to much critical acclaim. During this time he was also active making designs for the Sèvres porcelain factory. He exhibited at the Salon until 1796, the year in which the Colnaghi painting was executed. From 1804 onwards he was no longer active as a painter in oils.
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