Jacques Carabain was born in Amsterdam in 1834. He trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in his city, where he specialised in landscapes and cityscapes, characterised by a perfect handling of perspective and above all by chromatic interlocks that help emphasise the extraordinary variety and architectural beauty of Amsterdam’s buildings, as if he were a master of the 17th century.
Attention to structural details, finishes and architectural features, as well as constant reflection on the activity of the small figures that populate his urban views, immediately distinguished the production of the Dutch painter, who moved from Amsterdam to Brussels in 1856.
A travelling painter
The Belgian city was to some extent the basis of his constant travels in Europe: he was a curious and tireless landscape painter, as can be seen from his views not only of the Netherlands, but also of Germany, France and above all Italy. During the 1970s, he stayed in Liguria, between Genoa, Vernazza and Monterosso, as can be seen in the numerous marinas and views of the small villages set in the Ligurian Riviera.
An intense luminosity pervades the streets, the alleys, the small passages populated by ordinary people, horses and donkeys, in which the essence of the Italian tradition of the second half of the nineteenth century is synthesised, through a mild realism that manifests itself in the fragmentary and spontaneous shots and in the vivid colouring, but which is confused, at times, with a decidedly picturesque intent.
Jacques Carabain, during his Italian period, did not stay exclusively in Liguria, but visited the country extensively from north to south, staying for some time in Rome and then for several months in Verona and Padua. His works in Italy include Piazza dei Frutti in Padua, Piazza delle Erbe in Verona, A street in Narni, A mill between Bordighera and Ventimiglia, Street in Bordighera, Street in Sanremo. In 1873 and 1874 he took part in the International Exhibition in London.
Moving to Australia
In 1885, the Dutch painter decided to leave for Australia. There, he exhibited several times at the exhibitions of the Academy of Fine Arts in Victoria. He settled in Melbourne for a few years, from where he travelled frequently throughout Australia and New Zealand.
During these years, he executed a series of urban views that portray with a keen and curious eye the colonial structure of some streets and squares, as in the views Queen Street, Auckland and Town Hall, Melbourne, which show enormous differences with the first views of Flemish medieval towns and also with the small Italian villages, but which at the same time show us the author’s ability to capture the cultural, architectural and atmospheric elements characteristic of each place. He returned to Belgium in the 1990s and died there in 1933, almost a hundred years old.