HOOCH, Pieter de
(b. 1629, Rotterdam, d. 1684, Amsterdam)


Pieter de Hooch (also spelled Hoogh, or Hooghe), Dutch genre painter of the Delft school, noted for his interior scenes and use of light.

Hooch was a pupil of Claes Berchem at Haarlem. From 1653 he was in the service of Justus de Grange and lived in Delft, The Hague, and Leiden. From 1654 to 1657 he was a member of the painters' guild of Delft, but after that date there are no traces of his career until about 1667, when his presence was recorded in Amsterdam.

His earliest pictures are tavern and guardroom scenes dependent on the genre pictures of Rotterdam painters such as Ludolf de Jongh and Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh. He moved to Delft, temporarily in 1652, and on a more permanent basis in 1654/5. Here he would have come across the pioneering church interiors of architectural painters such as Gerard Houckgeest, Emanuel de Witte and Hendrick de Vliet, whose use of multi-point perspective and diagonal views coupled with an interest in light and atmosphere resulted in interiors of great naturalism and informality. Here too he is likely to have seen the work of Carel Fabritius, the talented pupil of Rembrandt, whose originality was praised by his contemporaries but who tragically died in the explosion of the Delft powder magazine in 1654.

His work, both in style and subject matter, shows affinity with the painting of Vermeer, who was living in Delft at the same time. His paintings, like Vermeer's, are small works that display perfect finish and a great power of compositional discrimination. Though he sometimes painted open-air scenes - e.g., A Woman and Her Maid in a Court (National Gallery, London) - and tavern genres - e.g., Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room (Royal Collection, Windsor) - he preferred painting two or three figures occupied with humble daily duties in a sober interior, the still atmosphere of which is broken only by the radiant entry of outdoor light illuminating the scene - e.g., At the Linen Closet (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), A Mother Beside a Cradle (Staatliche Museen, Berlin), and Woman Peeling Apples (Wallace Collection, London). These depictions of the serene simplicity of Dutch domestic life are free of sentimentality. Largely done between about 1655 and 1660 while de Hooch was living in Delft, they are considered his best works. In them he was preoccupied with the relation of light to different surfaces, the effect of enclosures and apertures on light intensity, the variation of tone, the complex arrangement of spatial units, and linear perspective.

De Hooch's decision to leave Delft was no doubt prompted by the prospect of a larger market for his paintings in the thriving commercial centre of Amsterdam. Here he responded to a wealthier, more aspirational clientele, by increasingly producing pictures depicting more sumptuously dressed figures in more luxurious interiors, and painting on a larger scale than he had tended to do in Delft. Although an unevenness and later falling off in quality characterises the Amsterdam period, from his arrival in the city through into the mid-1670s de Hooch was still capable of painting individual pictures that rival the best works of his Delft years.