After entering Haarlem’s Guild of Saint Luke in 1680, Cornelis Dusart cultivated a painterly style close to that of his probable master, Adriaen van Ostade, in peasant genre subjects. But after 1685—the year of Van Ostade’s death and Dusart’s presumed inheritance of his studio contents—Dusart amalgamated a variety of influences and came into his own as a prolific draftsman. His drawings of single figures resonate with those of Van Ostade and also with the figure studies produced by another Van Ostade student, Cornelis Bega, and his Haarlem circle (see 25.1998.93, 2009.207, 1951.3).
Dusart’s probate inventory of 1704 confirms the visual evidence. Hundreds of figural drawings by Dusart and by Adriaen and Isaac van Ostade appear, as well as 125 figure studies by Bega housed in two portfolios. Dusart also owned figure studies by Haarlem draftsmen Salomon de Bray and Leendert van der Cooghen. Many more drawings are simply described as figures drawn after life (“na’t leven”) or even as nude studies, referred to sometimes as “academies.”
Dusart does not appear to have participated in life drawing within an artists’ collegium, as did Bega and his other Haarlem predecessors, since drawings by different hands of the same figures do not survive. However, he did adapt some of those practices with regard to models and costume, in that similar elements appear across his own sheets. In the present work, a mature man with thinning hair and a goatee wears a slashed doublet and floppy hat as he leans askew in a chair. The same costume and model appear in a crouching pose in a drawing in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, suggesting that the two sheets were drawn within the same session (Fig. 1). Each distinctive element of these two drawings—model, hat, and doublet—appears singly in a variety of Dusart’s other figural drawings, implying that he maintained a stock of costume pieces to be donned by a particular model at his request. Aside from these two drawings, the model appears again in three other figure studies, the doublet in three further, and the hat in three more still.
Dusart’s use of color in figure studies like this sheet has often been noted as a unique contribution to Dutch figural drawing, stemming from an innovative and inspired blending of sources. The large sizes, deliberate poses, and careful hatching of his single figures ally them with the figure studies of Bega and his colleagues. His addition of watercolor or colored chalks, however, originated from the example of his master, Adriaen van Ostade, who most often chose watercolor to enhance his small figures in pen and ink, thereby transforming them into little jewels of draftsmanship. By combining these antecedents, Dusart created unprecedented objects that could be viewed as both practical studies and collectible pieces.