Peasant Festival on a Town Street
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Adriaen van Ostade
Dutch, Haarlem, The Netherlands, 1674
Pen and ink over watercolor and bodycolor
8 x 12 3/8 in.

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Neither moralist nor social critic, Adriaen van Ostade aimed only to capture the lively spirit of his peasant subjects' daily activities. He animated this scene with lively penwork but also exploited the potential of watercolor. His thin, translucent washes allowed the white of the paper to show through. In brilliant colors, they suffuse the whole street with luminous, airy sunlight. The vivid yet delicate pastel hues give the earthy subject matter an air of refinement that would have appealed to contemporary collectors.

Dutch taste for such finished drawings grew throughout the 1600s. By late in the century, draftsmen were creating highly finished, extensively colored compositions and selling these elaborate drawings as small paintings.

Van Ostade painted many peasant scenes, often repeating elements. This drawing's diagonal placement of space, the principal figure groups, the smoker seen from behind, and the man facing front with his leg extended frequently appear in other paintings and drawings.

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