Thursday 9 June 2022


 Born on this day in 1597 was the extraordinary Dutch painter of church interiors, Pieter Jansz Saenredam. His paintings of churches scraped and stripped of all ornament by Protestant zeal have a remarkably potent presence, and are much more than mere architectural studies: they are fully achieved paintings. Although Saenredam measured his subjects with minute care, when he came to making the final picture he had no qualms about distorting the image for dramatic effect, making piers soar higher, creating a quality of cool level light that goes beyond naturalistic presentation into something more suggestive of the sublime, and introducing artfully placed figures for pictorial effect. It is unlikely that any real church interior, even a Dutch one, ever looked quite like a Saenredam, and there are certainly no paintings quite like his, so full of light and air, so rewarding (and calming) to look at. Happily the National Gallery has two Saenredams: the one above is of the Grote Kerk in Haarlem, the artist's home town. 


  1. Reminds me of the work of a Spanish artist (name escapes me - lived a few hundred years later, I believe) who had a similar technique of toying with proportions in his church paintings, such that columns became skyscraper sized, and the church-goers appeared as ants in comparison, etc. I guess this was his source.

    But, this later painter's work certainly can't compete with Saenredam...there's a hypnotic effect in his paintings; it seems to me one of a kind. I have to say, I feel totally overwhelmed just imagining the level of single minded, monomaniacal devotion to methodology he must have possessed...thanks for the introduction Nige :)

  2. You're welcome, powerfulR.