Flemish painting and De Jonckheere Gallery's old master paintings
1594 - Antwerp - after 1657
Little information survives about the life of Clara Peeters. Her date of birth - 15 May 1594 – was discovered in the baptismal registers of the St. Walburga church in Antwerp. As her name does not appear in the archives of the Guild of Saint Luke, it seems that she did not receive formal training as a painter. There is evidence of her presence in Amsterdam in 1612, and in The Hague in 1617. A marriage was recorded between a certain Clara Peeters and Hendrick Joosen at St. Walburga church in Antwerp. This could refer to the artist. Clara Peeters was an astonishingly precocious talent, judging from five signed works dating from between 1608 and 1612. Some 50 of the artist’s works have been preserved, approximately 30 of which are signed and ten dated.
Her early paintings are characterised by the great sophistication of the workmanship and the composition. This can no doubt be attributed to the fact that in Antwerp, then still the artistic capital of the Netherlands, the detail and finesse of the execution were given greater emphasis than in other Flemish centres such as Haarlem and Utrecht. Most of her still lifes fall into the category of “ontbijtjes” or breakfast pieces, meaning fairly sumptuous spreads of assorted foods and objects arranged on tables. Like Osias Beert, she positioned the elements at a distance from each other, although she sought to link them through secondary forms, thus creating a sense of depth. While the foundations of her composition and some of her motives were derived from Osias Beert, she soon developed a range of specific subjects and techniques of her own. In order to create unity, in some paintings, Clara Peeters depicts elements belonging to the same category. She presents variations on the themes of cheese, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, game... a subject that would later become immensely successful in Flanders through the work of Frans Snyders and Jan Fyt. Although her late career remains vague, her role in developing the "breakfast pieces" in Antwerp in the early 17th century has long been acknowledged.