man; costume/uniform; leisure/recreation
Seventeenth century Holland is well known for its genre paintings, small pictures of contemporary lower and middle class daily life. These popular pictures of tradesmen at work, in the streets, relaxing at taverns or at home with their families were sold in open-air markets for low prices to the middle class, or to travelers who bought them as souvenirs.
Jan Steen was a prolific and versatile artist who painted the life he knew well. Unable to support his family by his painting alone he pursued other occupations, first as a beer brewer, then as a tavern keeper. Steen's artistic strength lay in the depiction of humorous scenes from the daily lives of the people he knew.
"The Drinker" captures a moment in the life of a tavern. An old man, wearing a leather work apron listens thoughtfully as has companion reads him a letter. In the background a customer makes a transaction with the proprietress. Through Steen's attention to detail, warm palette and structured composition, we are brought back in time to a moment of life in Holland hundreds of years ago.