Joachim Patenier
Biography of Netherlandish Renaissance Landscape Painter.

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Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1515)
Prado Museum, Madrid.

For an idea of the pigments
used by Joachim Patenier
in his colour painting,
see: Renaissance Colour Palette.

Paintings by Joachim Patinir
are widely available online
in the form of poster art.

Joachim Patenier (1485-1524)

One of the great Old Masters of the Netherlandish Renaissance, and a pioneer of landscape painting as an independent genre, Joachim Patenier (Patinir, Patinier) became a master of St Luke's Guild of Antwerp in 1515. Around 1520 he became close friends with Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), the famous German Renaissance draughtsman, who had a great respect for Patenier's combination of acute naturalistic observation and innovative sense of fantasy, and considered him one of the best landscape artists of the age. Patenier's known output numbers some 20 paintings, none of which are dated and only five are signed. Consisting mostly of religious narrative paintings with panoramic views, the landscape element typically dominates the composition, with details of buildings, trees, peasants, hermits, holy families and even the occasional Christ, painted with a meticulous, high quality technique. Regarded today as an important figure in Flemish painting, his best known works include: The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1515, Koninklijk Museum, voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp; and Prado); The Baptism of Christ (1515, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna); Temptation of St Anthony (Prado); The Penitence of St Jerome (1518, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Journey Into the Underworld (1522, Prado); and The Sermon of John the Baptist (Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Patenier is seen as one of the most creative Northern Renaissance artists, whose work acts as a bridge between Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) and Pieter Brugel the Elder (1525-69).

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Biographical information on Joachim Patenier (Patinir, Patinier) - the most seminal of Netherlandish landscape painters - is extremely scarce and the first positive mention of his name occurs only in 1515 when he is recorded as a master of the Antwerp Guild. His name appears next to that of Gerrit David (1460-1523) who joined the guild in the same year and may have been Patenier's master in Bruges before his settling in Antwerp - a theory which appears to be borne out by the subject matter of certain of Patenier's works such as a Baptism of Christ and by his use of a pointillist technique to highlight foliage.

Friendship With Durer

In the course of his visit to Antwerp in 1520, Albrecht Durer became friendly with Patenier. The records in his diary say how he borrowed Patenier's paints and employed one of his pupils, in exchange for some engravings and a drawing, as well as an oil painting by their German contemporary Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545). Durer also bought Patenier's Lot and his Daughters. On 5th May 1521 he was at Patenier's wedding to his second wife Jeanne Nuyts, and later painted two portraits of her, one of which could be the drawing in silverpoint now in the Weimar Museum.

Quentin Massys (1466-1530) was another painter who had strong links with Patenier. He painted some of the figures in Patenier's Temptation of St Anthony (Prado) and was appointed guardian to the artist's daughters on his death. This probably occurred in 1524, as Jeanne Nuyts is styled 'widow of Joachim Patenier' in a deed dated 5th October 1524.



Famous in his lifetime, Patenier was acknowledged by Guevara, Philip II's artistic adviser, to be one of the greatest of the Netherlandish masters of the Northern Renaissance. In 1521 three of his works were recorded as being in the Grimani Palace, Venice. Many paintings by pupils or imitators have been wrongly attributed to Patenier. In fact, no more than a score of famous landscape paintings are indisputably by his hand, inncluding The Flight into Egypt (Antwerp Museum), The Baptism of Christ (Vienna, KM.), St Jerome (Metropolitan Museum, NY) and The Temptation of St Anthony ( Prado). Of these only five contain his signature.

Patenier's Landscape Art

While following the tradition of Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441), Patenier seems to have been influenced by Bosch (his senior by 30 years) in the way in which he depicts landscape from a bird's-eye view. As with Bosch, the figures in the foreground seem to be detached from their surroundings, the religious subject matter being only a pretext for the depiction of a marvellous world of fantasy. Like a true Renaissance Man, Patenier directed his talents to landscapes at a time when the discovery of new lands and distant places was everywhere arousing passionate interest.

Into his boundless universe Patenier puts tiny figures preoccupied with the familiar actions of their everyday lives. His pictures are full of naturalistic details. In St Jerome (Louvre) a little dog is shown leaping after a bird in flight, while in the background of Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Prado) the realistic details of the harvest are matched by the adoration of the god Baal, which serves as an excuse for the inclusion of fantastic edifices surrounded by jagged rocky cliffs.

Patenier's imaginary landscapes re-create and bring together in one varied scene the natural elements of the countryside around Antwerp and the cliffs near Dinant, washed by the Meuse. But his fantastic rocky crags are also the legacy of a Christian symbolism, still widespread at the beginning of the 16th century. See also the Danube School of landscape painting (1490-1540) which may have been influenced by Patenir's works.)

The aerial perspective of his compositions is designed in a succession of three coloured planes: thus, in the version of St Jerome in the National Gallery, London, the eye is caught first by the saint's blue robe standing out against the warm brown of the rocks behind him. A second plane, showing a valley between the rocks, is painted in cool luminous tones; and, finally, the eye comes to rest on the mountains in the hazy distance. Using a whole gamut of greys for the rocks and a delicate pink for the roof tops, Patenier emphasizes this scheme with great subtlety. The tiers slip away towards a rather high skyline, a well tried technique used by Bruegel and Hercules Seghers (1589-1638).

Religious History Painting

Patenier limited himself to several themes of religious art, including: The Flight into Egypt (Prado; Vienna, K.M.; Antwerp Museum); St Christopher (Escorial); The Temptation of St Anthony (Prado); The Burning of Sodom (Rotterdam, B.V.B.; Oxford, Ashmolean Museum); The Baptism of Christ (Vienna, KM.; Metropolitan Museum); St Jerome (Vienna, KM.; Prado; London, N.G.; Louvre; Metropolitan Museum; Karlsruhe Museum); and two rarer subjects, The Vision of St Hubert (private coll.) and The Crossing of the Styx (Journey Into the Underworld) (Prado).

This last-named history painting (also known as Heaven and Hell) stands apart from the rest of Patenier's work, which is generally serene in mood. In depicting the medieval idea of the 'chosen' and the 'damned' Patenier created a surprisingly secular picture in which, between a celestial kingdom in the tradition of Van Eyck and a flaming inferno reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, a vast, deep-blue river stretches as far as the eye can see towards new horizons. Equally striking is the violent expressionism of The Burning of Sodom, painted in browns and reds, with its phantasmagorical rocky crags grouped against the background, without regard to the rules of perspective.

Patenier knew nothing of Renaissance art in Italy. His methods, his use of pure colour, and his blending of fantasy with precise factual detail make him the heir to the medieval artists of the 15th century. Nevertheless, he imposes a new and unfamiliar style of painting on the Middle Ages, and paves the way for Bruegel. His pupils, such as Quentin Massys, and his many imitators upheld his ideas throughout the 16th century. They were renewed by Flemish painters Herri met de Bles, Lucas Cassel, Joos de Momper, Jan Bruegel the Elder and Gillis van Coninxloo.

Paintings by Joachim Patenier can be seen in many of the best art museums throughout the world.

Netherlands Renaissance

Other Flemish painters associated with the Netherlandish Renaissance include the Tournai-based Robert Campin (1375-1444), Roger van der Weyden (1398-1464) active in Tournai and Brussels, Dirk Bouts (1410-75) active in Louvain, the Amiens-born Simon Marmion (1401-65), the Bruges-based Hans Memling (c.1430-94), the Ghent-born Hugo van der Goes (1440-82), Gerrit David (1460-1523) of Bruges and Antwerp; the miniaturist-trained Jan Provost (1465-1529) and the Antwerp-based Joos van Cleve (1490-1540).

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