(b. 1618, Bruxelles, d. 1664, Goa)
The Drawing Class1656-58
Oil on canvas, 76,5 x 110 cm
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem
Sweerts was born and trained in Brussels: he spent several years in Rome but was back in Brussels by 1656 when he received permission to open an academy in the city. He joined the guild in Brussels in 1659 but two years later travelled to the Far East as a member of a Catholic missionary expedition. He died in Goa in 1664.
Sweerts painted a number of pictures showing young artists drawing from plaster casts and drawing from life outside the studio, but this is his only painting of an academy. The work has a special significance in Sweerts's life as we know that he ran an 'academie van die teeckeninghen naer hetleven' (an academy for drawing from the life) in Brussels. While learning to draw from the antique and from models in his master's studio was a part of every Dutch and Flemish apprentice artist's training, academies of this type were rare in the Netherlands. Among the few precedents were those set up by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, Hendrick Goltzius and Carel van Mander in Haarlem around 1590, and by Hendrick van Uylenburgh in Amsterdam in the 1620s. Sweerts, having lived in Italy for several years, presumably had Italian prototypes in mind such as the academy established by Baccio Bandinelli in 1531 in the Belvedere in Rome.
Around the same time that he applied to open his academy, Sweerts made a series of etchings to be used in teaching young students to draw. Sadly, nothing more is known of Sweerts's academy.