MANDER, Karel van, the Elder
(b. 1548, Meulebeke, d. 1606, Amsterdam)


Dutch Mannerist painter, poet, and writer whose fame is principally based upon a biographical work on painters - Het Schilder-boeck (1604; "The Book of Painters") - that has become for the northern countries what Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Painters became for Italy. This is the first systematic account of the lives of northern European artists, and our only source of information about some of them.

Born of a noble family at Meulebeke in Flanders, van Mander studied under Lucas de Heere at Ghent and in 1568-69 under Pieter Vlerick at Courtrai and Tournai. After much wandering, van Mander in 1583 settled at Haarlem, where, with Hendrik Goltzius and Cornelis Cornelisz., he founded a successful academy of painting.

Het Schilder-boeck contains about 175 biographies of Dutch, Flemish, and German painters of the 15th and 16th centuries and is a unique source of information on the northern European artists of those times. Most of this material is a condensed translation into Dutch of Vasari, it also has valuable information collected by van Mander himself when he was in Italy in 1573-77 or from friends and correspondents.

Van Mander's own pictures, which were mainly religious and allegorical, adopted the elongated forms of the Mannerist, but his later works showed a tendency towards naturalism. Frans Hals was probably his pupil.

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