The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
He was born sometime around the beginning of the 17th century, was active as a portrait painter in England during the century's middle decades, and died on the 11th day of February in 1681. Beyond those few facts, we know little else about the life of Gerard van Soest (c 1600-1681). Using his name as a key, historians believe that he came from the town of Soest, but whether it was Soest in Westphalia or Soest, a Dutch town near Utrecht, remains unresolved. The trend is to make him Dutch, if not by birth then certainly by training. The fact that he seldom dated or even signed his works only adds to the difficulty of tracking him. His earliest dated work places him in England by 1644. Contemporaries in London praised his thinly applied paint and his highly finished surfaces, especially those that depicted satin drapery. On the other hand, potential female sitters found him “too Dutch,” a shorthand way of saying he made women look ugly. Consequently, his known oeuvre contains few portraits of women. According to historian Oliver Millar (Grove Dictionary of Art, “Soest, Gerard”), the likenesses in his female portraits were often “uncompromisingly true to nature” and “remarkably ungainly in design.” His portraits of men, on the other hand, of which there are many, were lauded by contemporaries. Portrait of Thomas Bulwer (cover ) is one such example.
Southgate MT. Portrait of Thomas Bulwer. JAMA. 2006;295(6):595. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.595
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