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Peeters first oil paintings are dated from 1607, they were small  paintings of food and beverages that were very detailed.  She made them when she was just 14 years old.  The skill in which she made such paintings indicates that she was trained by a master painter. Even thought there are no documents proving this, it is believe that Peeters was a trained by Osias Beert, a still-life painter who was also from Antwerp. By the age of 18, Peeters was producing large numbers of diligently painted still-lifes, usually displaying a group of valuable objects such as:  highly decorated goblets, gold coins, and exotic flowers, on a thin ledge, with the vantage point lower than the ledge, usually painted against a dark background.  By the end of the sixteenth century the religious scene had disappeared and a table filled with food had emerged as an independent genre known as "banquet" or "breakfast" pieces. Only a handful of such paintings can be dated prior to 1608, the date of Peeters first painting.  Although Peeters painted other still lifes, she is recognized as one of the originators of the "banquet" or "breakfast" pieces.  Peeters was very talented, and became successful from an early age.

Clara Peeters (Clara Pieters) was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1594.  She showed an amazing talent for painting at a very early age.  It is believed that her family encouraged her artistic talents, rather than trying to get her to married, as many families did in her era.  Peeters did marry when she was 45, to Hendrick Joossen, it is rumored that she did this for economic reasons

While there is no record on who it was that trained her, it is said that she studied with Osias Beert who was a noted still-life painter in Antwerp. Their styles are very similar, as well as the way they would group the objects in their paintings.  However, Peeters work is very different in many ways from the other Flemish artists of her time. Peeters utilized a unique perspective on how she placed objects in her paintings. This would enhance the quality of the arrangement. She grouped her objects very close together, which would allow a certain amount of overlapping, with a simple stone ledge, painted against a dark background, became typical of all known paintings by Peeters.

By the age of 17, Peeters was making paintings such as "A Goblet", "Pretzels", "Still Life with Flowers", and "Dried Fruit".  These were part of series of four works that are masterpieces of early 17 century still-lifes. Peeters paintings are intricate and eloquent, her painting style is indicative of the Baroque period. Peeters paintings titled "Still Life with a Vase of Flowers", "Goblets", and "Shells",  which were considered to be some of Peeters best works, are different from her earlier works.  The images were more restrained, and seemed relatively plain. It depicts three objects a goblet on the right, and a goblet in the center, and a vase full of flowers on the left. What Anchors the objects together, is the stack of coins, scattered shells, a tulip on a ledge, along with a small bowl holding a gold chain, which is draped over the edge of the bowl.  Peeters uses several different items when she created her dynamic compositions.

Peeters was very skilled at painting on reflective surfaces; she seemed to have been fond of painting miniature self-portraits on the surface of wine glasses and on pewter.  Peeters painted one goblet, which would reflect her image seven times.

Peeters choice of colorful fruits, exotic flowers, expensive food, and luxurious items are symbolic of what would have been the tastes of her era. Many Dutch and Flemish Baroque still-lifes, included objects that were specifically chosen to relay the message showing the temporary nature of our existence.  She would use items that conveyed an overt message, that basically meant our time on earth eventually comes to an end.  This is very clear to the current day art lover, but, was not clearly understood by the 17th century viewer. Some of the symbols she used were:

Peeters was said to have been very familiar with the competitive art market of the Netherlands.  She adapted her artwork in response to the changing tastes of her patrons when.  In the early 1620's, Peeters started painting in a more monochromatic style, and painted objects that were plainer, and used more simple arrangements in her works.  Peeters would sign and date her paintings; this made it possible to identify many of her works.

Peeters, like other women of her era, learned her skill from a master painter, instead of her father.  This shows that the attitude towards women artists was changing in 17th century.

Though the exact date of her is a mystery, it is said that she died in 1657,  as there is no evidence of her works after that year.

You can view some of her paintings at: http://tinyurl.com/5kgah

More information on other lesser known female artists can be found here

Source: Women And The Art World. 2nd ed. : Alpine Publishers, 1971.
Image Source: http://worldart.sjsu.edu

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