Jan Griffier I was a constant traveller, who lived either on or close to the water. He was born in Holland, but lived the major part of his life in London, except for a stay of 9 years in Holland.
About Jan Griffier I
Anglo-Dutch painter and etcher
Amsterdam circa 1645/1652 – 1718 London
In England known as John Griffier I.
Landscape painter. Occasionally he also painted animal scenes.
Pupil in Amsterdam of the Dutch landscape painter Roelant Roghman (1627 – 1692) and in London of the Dutch painter of wooded landscapes Jan Looten (1617/18 – circa 1681). It is not known when exactly Looten had moved from Amsterdam to London; he is documented here for the first time in April 1669.
Griffier lived the major part of his life in London:
- from 1667 until 1695,
- from 1704 until his death in 1718.
The Dutch painters’ biographer, Arnold Houbraken is today not always considered as a very trustful source. But he does seem to have known a lot about Jan Griffier I, whom he wrote about (P. 357 – 360) in his third and final volume of his “De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen”, published in 1721 (actually two years after the author passed away).
During his first stay in London Griffier was very successful with his landscapes holding Italian ruins and later with views of the River Rhine. He collected an important collection of paintings. He bought himself an expensive yacht of 3000 guilders and lived with his family on the River Thames.
In 1677 he was admitted as a “free-brother” to the Company of Painter-Stainers in London.
In 1695 he returned to the Dutch Republic. During that journey he was shipwrecked, loosing his ship, his art collection and most of his capital. Luckily his daughter had kept some money in a belt.
Griffier bought a half-worn ship in Rotterdam and travelled for almost ten years extensively over the inland waterways of the Dutch Republic: to Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, Leiden and Dordrecht. Houbraken tells us that Griffier sailed near Dordrecht onto a sandbank, where he remained stuck for over 8 days, waiting for the next high tide.
Houbraken rightly states that Griffier should be considered as a painter who easily absorbed the influence of other landscape painters: be it Johannes Lingelbach, Herman Saftleven, Adriaen van de Velde, Jacob van Ruisdael, Cornelis van Poelenburgh or even Rembrandt.
Another source of information about Jan Griffier I is the English art historian Horace Walpole in his “Some Anecdotes of Painting in England” from 1762, which were based on the notes of the engraver and antiquary George Vertue.
At his return to London in 1704 Griffier bought a house on the Millbank, finally on dry land, but within sight of the River Thames. He seems to have travelled extensively through England judging by his topographical city views (of London, Windsor, Oxford and Gloucester).
During his second stay in England Griffier widened the range of his subjects, which now occasionally included landscapes with grottoes and fantastic figures, or even marine paintings.
Prince Eugene of Savoy bought shortly after Griffier’s death in 1718 a series of 16 paintings, most on copper, with Rhenish capriccios, London views and winter landscapes. These are today displayed at the Galleria Sabauda in Turin.
Jan I was the father of Robert (1688 – 1760) and of Jan II (1698 – probably 1773); some rare sources say Jan II was a grandson of Jan I.
It remains a fact that Jan II was strongly influenced by Jan I; it is not simple to distinguish both hands. Jan II also turned to painting bird scenes.
I should also mention Johann Anton Eismann, an Austrian painter (Salzburg circa 1613 – 1700 Venice) who had worked in Munich, before moving to Italy: he (his Italian name was Giovanni Homo di Ferro) was in Venice in 1644, lived in Rome in 1650 and moved back to Venice in 1663, where he remained until his death in 1700). He painted views of seaports and of the Laguna, and also battle scenes. A pair of unsigned panel paintings from the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, holding similar Roman relief plates with sculptures as ours, have been attributed there to Eismann. This was probably based on similarities with a harbour view from that same museum, which indeed is typical of Eismann.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it sums up the chaotic, ancient architecture that one seeks in Italy, from Pitigliano to Matera.