Pieter Boel (1622-1674)

Pieter Boel or Peeter Boel (1622-1674) was a Flemish painter, printmaker and tapestry designer. He specialised in lavish still lifes and animal paintings. He moved to Paris, where he worked in the gobelin factory and became a painter to the king. Boel revolutionized animal painting by working directly from live animals in a natural setting. He thus arrived at representations of animals showing them in their natural, characteristic poses. He had many followers in France. Boel principally painted still lifes including flower still lifes, hunting still lifes, animal and fish still lifes, vanitas paintings and still lifes of weapons. He also painted some landscapes. Since most of his works are undated, it is difficult to establish a chronology for his work. Boel revolutionized animal painting. Whereas artists had contented themselves before with making static studies from stuffed animals, Boel drew and painted his animals from life in the menagerie at Versailles. He thus represented animals in their natural poses and devoid of any emblematic or similar preconceived notion of the animals. His way of portraying animals has been described as sympathetic with the animals. This was not in line with the prevailing view of animals as simple machines or beasts. His naturalism influenced a long line of great animal artists, from the painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry to the sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. Boel was particularly adept at rendering various textures, especially feathers.