Social World of the Artist : Drunken Artist

Drunken Artist

Drunken Artist, Abraham Bloemaert, Sepia Ink on Paper, Dutch Republic

    Drunken Artist is a drawing attributed to Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) who lived in the Dutch Republic, and was a notable painter and print maker. Drunken Artist depicts an unusual scene of an artist drunkenly relaxing after completing a landscape painting. In the High Renaissance style, depictions of artists were exclusively used to elevate the status of the craft. Works produced in the Baroque style would begin to challenge this model as more realistic depictions of artists and their crafts were demanded. This especially applied to the Dutch Republic where Bloemaert worked his entire life. The budding capitalist system in the Dutch Republic created a wider base of both artists and art consumers. Unlike in Italy and Spain, art within the Dutch Republic was treated as a craft and therefore was accessible to a wider market. This new art market created the environment in which Drunken Artist could have been created. Bloemaert’s drawing may seem uninspiring in comparison to his grandiose paintings; however it marks an important shift in his artistic career. Being born in 1566 Bloemaert studied High Renaissance and Mannerist works during his formative years. His early works captured exclusively religious and mythological scenes in typical Mannerist style. By the turn of the seventeenth century Bloemaert underwent a transformation in his style adopting more Baroque tendencies. His transition into the Baroque allowed Bloemaert to depict subjects who did not hold religious significance. Drunken Artist is a product of Bloemaert’s expanding subject matters as it would be unseen for an artist to depict another artist in a drunken state before the Baroque. By pushing the boundaries of artistic subject matter Bloemaert is commenting on the issue of drinking in the Dutch Republic. During Bloemaert’s life public drunkenness was unseemly and looked down upon. Many men during this time period struggled with heavy drinking and Bloemaert’s drawing could be a commentary on this issue. The Baroque period freed the artist in many regards, but the Dutch Republic’s market for art allowed artists greater freedom in their creations. Bloemaert would have been only been able to create and sell an image like Drunken Artist in the Dutch Republic after the transition into the Baroque.