Jan Frans van Son

Flemish / Belgium, b.1658, d.1701

Flowers in a vase

  • c. 1685
  • Oil on canvas
  • Purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund of Great Britain, 1973
  • 695 x 645 x 55mm
  • 73/164

The Flemish artist Jan Frans van Son came from an artistic family; his father, Joris van Son, was also a respected painter. During the sixteenth century the demand for artists to paint flower subjects – particularly rare and exotic blooms – mirrored the increased enthusiasm for the cultivation of flowers in Holland. By the seventeenth century, still-life flower painting had become a major genre in Dutch painting, and it was at this that van Son excelled. He relocated to England as a young man around 1675 where he established himself as a highly successful painter renowned for his flower paintings.

(New Dawn Fades, November 2018)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Treasury: a generous legacy, 18 December 2015 - 4 December 2016

    The Antwerp-born painter Jan Frans van Son was the son of the leading Flemish still life painter Joris van Son. He built a reputation with his own still life paintings in London, finding profitable patronage in England through his marriage to a niece of Robert Streater, sergeant-painter to Charles II.

    The purchase of this work in London in 1973 was instigated by the Ngāpuhi art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki during his studies at the Courtauld Institute. It was funded by the National Art Collections Fund, a British art charity that supported purchases for galleries in this country for a reasonable period – for Christchurch as late as 1994.

  • This is a typical 17th century Dutch Still Life painting showing, with precise realism, the forms and surfaces of a number of precious blooms. Van Son would have used a magnifying glass to observe the fine detail of the elaborate structure and patterning of the petals. He usually painted in the studio from sketches and studies he had made earlier. This accounts for the fact that flowers which bloom at different times of the year have been brought together in the composition. Jan van Son was born in Antwerp, the son of the Flemish artist Joris van Son (1622 - c.1667) who excelled in painting flowers and fruit. Jan van Son studied under his father but early in life went to live in England with his English-born wife. While in London Van Son developed a reputation for his still life paintings of fruit and flowers, similar to those of his father but modified for English tastes.

    (Label date unknown)

  • Floral studies were a major category in 17th century Dutch still life painting and coincided with the cultivation of flowers as a major industry in the Low Countries. Paintings of rare and perfect blooms were very popular and the artist was expected to present them with precise and careful realism. Within this balanced triangular composition each bloom is given almost equal emphasis. The fact that some of these flower at different times of the year was of no special consequence. The artist did not usually work directly from the blooms, but from earlier sketches and studies.

    (Label date unknown)