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Checkers Artist
Michiel Sweerts

Checkers Artist Michiel Sweerts

Michiel Sweerts, 1618 to 1664,

Portrait of Michiel Sweerts

Self-Portrait of Michiel Sweerts, (1658-61).

The Checkers Players
1652 De Damspelers
The Checkers Players
Women Playing Checkers
1656 Man en Vrouw Spelen Dam Man
and Woman Playing Checkers
  • Michiel Sweerts was an inventive Flemish painter of religious scenes, genre images that reflected a close observation of daily life and detailed, classical portraits of the Baroque period, though little biographical data is known about his artistic training or career from his early years.

  • However, we know that Michiel Sweerts traveled extensively and sojourned to Italy, where he lived for a decade from 1646 - 1656 and became a member of the painter’s academy.

  • Within this circle of Flemish painters residing in Rome at Santa Maria del Popolo, the interest centered around artist Pieter van Laer and the Bamboccianti, who were known for their depiction of daily life genre scenes and as followers of Caravaggio.

  • While in Italy, Sweerts was commissioned to complete some work for Pope Innocent X.

  • Artist Michiel Sweerts was an enigmatic and handsome artist, whose style was quite difficult to categorize, as it would seem that he developed a technique based on a variety of influences from his various artistic associations in Brussels and Rome.

  • Michiel created within his artistic expression an eclectic Netherlandish genre adaptation of early tenebrous styles to form his own hybrid art based on a combination of Caravaggio-influenced, full-bodied figures with a blend of Vermeer's genre of painting.

  • Sweerts painted genre scenes and historical settings that combined stark chiaroscuro and blunt realism with a classical serenity and simplicity that set the quiet mood of his work.

  • Artist Michiel Sweerts' work was certainly in a class by itself because of the quiet, melancholy dignity of his figures and his exquisite silvery tonality.

  • In his oil painting, The Checker Players, of 1652, the checkers artist Michiel Sweerts remained within the traditional artistic strictures of a triangular composition depicting two main checkers players in a game.

  • The setting represented the ultimate simplicity of stools, table, checkerboard and checkers players.

  • The artist painted the checkers players and spectators in aristocratic attire and the pose of the youth in red carried an air of breeding and almost a touch of arrogance as he gazed out towards the viewer or the artist; the other central character, also a youth, was dressed in black and totally focused on his next checker move; the figures appear to have been created as portraits within a genre setting of a normal form of leisurely activity and the choice of colors for the costumes could be symbolic of the Red and Black checkers pieces commonly used throughout the ages.

  • Michiel Sweerts again focused on the hands as seen in the tapered hand of the younger youth making a checker move and also in the pointing hand of the spectator behind.

  • Sweerts used stark chiaroscuro of a dark background with a distant figure looking on and observing the group of boys, who were highlighted by a strong source of light from the right drawing attention to the two players at the checkerboard.

  • Some sources believe that the artist painted a self-portrait of himself in the youth in red attire and one could certainly see a potential resemblance to a younger Michiel.

  • Sweerts often depicted himself as a gentleman painter to honor and ennoble the profession as he sought to share his knowledge and experience with novice artists of the period.

  • By 1656, the Flemish artist Michiel Sweerts had absorbed as much as was necessary for a statement in his own style and technique and he returned to his native Brussels, where he opened an academy for life drawing in 1656, as he was interested in the training and professional status of artists; Sweerts also published a series of prints designed to serve as ‘artists’ exemplars.

  • Sweerts painted numerous interior scenes of drawing lesions within the studio environment.

  • His self portrait depicted above was an example of his elegant and sophisticated rendering to create an aristocratic appearance with the Italian alps as a backdrop; the artists' painting showed him holding a paintbrush in his hand that was tapered to symbolize aristocratic ‘breeding’.

  • In his 1656 painting of The Man and Woman Playing Checkers, checkers artist Michiel Sweerts again depicted the genre theme of a leisurely game of checkers with a simplicity set within a strong, stark contrast in chiaroscuro; the checker players were clothed in aristocratic costumes in subdued colors and postures, baring serious, yet serene facial expressions; the woman gazes out towards the viewer away from her opponent, who is looking at her intently; in the background, an older woman, who is likely a servant, looks on at the couple’s checker game.

  • Sweerts focused on the hands of both players, the woman holding the fan in one hand and the other placed on the checkerboard, while his also rested on the game as if ready to make a checker move; the man could represent a profile self portrait of Michiel Sweerts.

  • The dark background was offset by a peek of gray sky and vague landscape creating depth within an otherwise flat composition and this imagery may have been a subtle hint at the level of the man’s feelings for his checkers companion.

  • In 1659, Michiel Sweerts became a member of St. Luke’s painters' guild.

  • Towards the end of his career, artist Sweerts worked mostly as a portraitist and these studies, like his genre scenes, were distinguished by delicate and Subdued color harmonies and a great sensitivity of expression and handling.

  • Michiel later moved to Amsterdam, and joined the Jesuit Order as a "lay Brother" rather than a priest and became a member of the Lazarist Société des Missions Étrangères.

  • Then Sweerts sailed with their missionary group from Marseilles to Jerusalem and on to Goa, India, in the Far East during the following year in late 1661; He was summarily dismissed from the mission in 1662 due to his unsuitability to the task because of his mental instability, quarrelsome nature and ungoverned zeal.

  • This fine painter artist Michiel Sweerts, died at the Portugese Jesuit colony at Goa, India, in 1664.









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DeerLake Online Store Items

Wonder Mugs Play checkers online, and enjoy drinking from this cool wonder mug.
When adding hot liquid, the colors of the mug will change, checkers cool.

Checkers is a two-player game, where one player is assigned white-chip checkers and the other red. The aim is to play checkers online, capture all of the other player's checkers or make them impossible to move.

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