Griffier, Jan (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 23
Griffier, Jan

by Lionel Henry Cust
Contains subarticles: Jan Griffier (the younger) (d. 1750?) and Robert Griffier.

GRIFFIER, JAN (1656–1718), painter and etcher, born at Amsterdam in 1656, was apprenticed successively to a carpenter, an earthenware manufacturer, and a drunken flower-painter, but eventually became a pupil of Roelant Roghman in landscape-painting. Mixing at Amsterdam in the society of the great painters, such as Rembrandt, Ruysdael, Lingelbach,and others, he became acquainted with their various styles, and traces of their influence may be observed in all his works. Perhaps the influence of Herman Saftleven is the most prominent. Griffier became a skilful copyist of the works of these and other artists. He followed his friend Looten, the landscape-painter, to England, and was here at the time of the great fire of London in 1666. He made a large drawing during the progress of the fire, of which a coloured engraving by W. Birch was published in the ‘Antiquarian Repertory,’ vol. ii. Griffier's pictures were principally compositions, views on the Rhine, Italian ruins and landscapes, and are to be found in many of the public and private collections both in England and on the continent. In England Griffier attained some reputation for his views of London and its environs taken from the Thames. He purchased a yacht, on which he lived with his family, from time to time passing from Gravesend as far as Windsor. A view of Greenwich from the river is in the collection of the Earl of Derby at Knowsley Hall. Having amassed a comfortable fortune, Griffier sailed for his native land, but was wrecked near Rotterdam, losing all his possessions. He remained for ten years or more in Holland, and, having purchased another yacht, resumed his wandering life on the water. He then returned to London, and took a house on Millbank, where he died in 1718. He was much patronised by the Duke of Beaufort. Many of Griffier's landscapes have been engraved. He also drew a series of six illustrations of the ‘Fable of the Miller and his Ass,’ which were etched by Paul Van Somer. He etched a series of plates from Barlow's drawings of birds and animals. A few other etchings by him are known, and he executed many interesting mezzotint engravings now very rare. He is usually known as ‘Old Griffier,’ to distinguish him from his sons. A portrait of Griffier by Sorst was in the Strawberry Hill collection.

Jan Griffier the younger (d. 1750?), younger son of the above, practised in London as a landscape-painter in his father's style, and was noted as a copyist of Claude Lorraine. He died in Pall Mall about 1750.

Robert Griffier (1688-1760?), elder son of the above, born in London in 1688, was also a landscape-painter in his father's style, especially in that of Saftleven. There is a large interesting painting by him of London from Montagu House on the Thames, in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Boughton, Northamptonshire; it is signed and dated 1745, which throws some doubt on the accepted statement that he went to Amsterdam and resided there for the greater part of his life. He is stated to have died there in 1750 at an advanced age, but another account says that he died at Cologne in 1760.

[Immerzeel's Hollandsche en Vlaamsche Konst-sohilders; Kramm's Hollandsche en Vlaamsche Kunstenaars; Descamp's Vies des Peintres, iii. 352; Vertue's MSS. (Brit, Mus. Addit. MSS. 23068, &c.); Seubert's Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits.]

L. C.