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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Willem Claesz. Heda

Willem Claesz. Heda

Dutch, 1594 - 1680

Although documents do not indicate the date or place of his birth, Willem Claesz. Heda was probably born in Haarlem either in 1593 or 1594. This assumption is based on the inscription "aetate 84" found on a 1678 portrait of Heda by the Haarlem painter Jan de Braij (c. 1626/27-1697). Heda's entire career was spent in Haarlem, where he took an active role in the Guild of St. Luke. His name first appears on the guild rolls of 1631, the year in which he assisted Salomon de Bray (1597-1664) in the Guild's reorganization. Heda later was elected deken in 1642 and 1652, and was a hoofdman in 1637, 1643, and 1651. One of his sons, Gerret Willemsz. Heda, was mentioned as his apprentice in a document dated 7 July 1642.

Although he painted some portraits and figural compositions, Heda specialized in still-life painting. Heda's early vanitas still lifes and breakfast pieces evolved from additive compositions to monumental, monochrome breakfast and banquet pieces, executed with delicate brushwork that captures a wide range of materials and textures. Heda and Pieter Claesz. (1597/8-1660) were the principal still-life artists in Haarlem until well after mid-century. Heda also had great influence on painters in other artistic centers, among them the Amsterdam artist Jan Jansz. den Uyl (c. 1595-1640. He died, probably in Haarlem, in 1680. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue]

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