Masterpieces in History

(Flemish, 1605/06-1638)
Peasants Brawling in a Tavern
Oil on panel
30 x 25 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Brouwer, Peasants Brawling in a Tavern

The greatest tavern roisterer among painters was probably Adriaen Brouwer. A brilliant raconteur, a gifted impromptu poet and a witty conversationalist, the painter had access to the literary and affluent mercantile circles of Antwerp. However, the "genius of lowlife" felt much more at home in taverns because he loved "drinking and licence" as his biographers tell us. They add that Brouwer "dawdled over painting but was quick at devouring his victuals". The genre scenes he painted, such as Peasants Brawling in a Tavern, probably represent firsthand experience. Although he was acclaimed and well paid for his work as a genre painter during his lifetime, Brouwer's passion for tavern life proved his undoing. As the story goes, Rubens, who admired the Flemish painter's work and even owned seventeen of his paintings, once took him in but soon threw him out again because he could not stand his bawdy ways. Brouwer, an "Adonis in rags" died at the age of thirty three, possibly of the plague which he concracted in a tavern.

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