Balthasar van der Ast, born 1593/94 in Middelburg and died 7 March 1657 in Delft, was a Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age who specialized in still lifes of flowers and fruit, as well as a number of notable shell still lifes. He is considered a pioneer in the genre of shell painting. Van der Ast's still lifes often include insects and lizards.
His father was a wealthy wool merchant, and when his father died in 1609, van der Ast moved in with his older sister Maria and his brother-in-law, the prominent Dutch painter Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621), whom Maria married in 1604 .Van der Ast was trained by Bosschaert as a still-life painter, and his early works clearly show Bosschaert's influence.
Van der Ast accompanied the Bosschaert family to Bergen op Zoom in 1615 and then to Utrecht in 1619, where van der Ast joined the Utrecht Guild of St. Luke. Roelandt Savery (1576-1639) also became a member of the St. Luke's guild in Utrecht at about the same time. Savery had a significant influence on van der Ast and his students in the years to come, especially regarding van der Ast's interest in tonality.
Van der Ast remained in Utrecht until 1632, when he moved to Delft and joined the Guild of St. Luke on 22 June 1633. In February 1633 he married Margrieta Jans van Buijeren, and they had two children, Maria and Helena. In Delft, van der Ast and his family lived in the house on the Cellebroerstraat until 1640, and in the house in Oude Delft until his death in 1657, when he was buried in the Oude Kerk.
An Amsterdam doctor once summed up van der Ast's life and work by saying: "In flowers, shells and lizards, beautiful."
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