OOST, Jacob van, the Elder
(b. 1603, Brugge, d. 1671, Brugge)


Flemish Baroque painter. The face of painting in seventeenth-century Bruges was shaped by Jacob van Oost the Elder, whose significance is comparable with that of Pieter Pourbus in the previous century. Not surprisingly, his works are liberally sprinkled around the city's convents and churches. Besides altarpieces, Van Oost painted numerous portraits - both of individuals and of families, a genre in which he excelled. The Groeninge Museum in Bruges has samples of both his religious and his secular work, acquired as donations or recovered after the French occupation. Van Oost's large canvas with Saint Augustine, once the altarpiece of Saint Trudo's Abbey, is a case in point. The provincial serenity of the composition, more evident for its organization than its decorative effect, perfectly expresses the temperament of this Bruges painter, whose quiet style contrasts with the virtuoso exuberance of Rubens and the courtly distinction of Van Dyck.

Greatly influenced by Italy where he spent several years prior to 1628, his work should be seen in the context of the school of Carracci or Caravaggio. This is most evident in the Fortune-teller, and in his Saint Martin, which also came from Saint Trudo's. The latter continued to set the Caravaggesque, dramatic tone in his very late Crowning with Thorns (1661) and the Artist's studio (1666) - an allegory of the academic doctrine of beauty.

Van Oost's most attractive work is to be found in his portraits, many of which show an affinity with Van Dyck. The Portrait of Fovin de Hasque and, above all, his Van Dyckian Portrait of a theologian (1668) illustrate this well. However, the masterpiece that elevates Van Oost above provincial mediocrity is his Portrait of a Bruges Family (1645).

Jacob's son, Jacob van Oost the Younger (1639-1713), continued in his father's footsteps, albeit in a somewhat more diffuse style, in which suggestive use is made of flakily smeared brushstrokes. His lifelike Portrait of a Man (1697) is a good example of his painting style. He produced most of his work in Lille.