Willem van Aelst (May 16, 1627 – 1683) was a Dutch Golden Age artist who specialized in still-life painting with flowers or game.
Willem van Aelst was born in Delft on 16 May 1627 as the son of the notary Jan van Aelst and Catharina de Veer. He taught the painter’s field at his uncle, the still-life painter Evert van Aelst in Delft. In 1643, Aelst was incorporated in St. Lucasgilde , The guild of art painters in Delft
From 1645 to 1649 he lived in France. Then he traveled to Italy, where he painted at the Ferdinando II court the ‘Medici in Florence. He received a gold medal from the Grand Duke of Tuscany for his services. There are still several flower and flower Wildlife remains of that time left at Palazzo Pitti in Florence In Italy he learned to know Matthias Withoos and Paul Bor jr. It is speculated that Van Aelst visited Rome, where he became a member of the Bentvueghels, an association of mainly Dutch and Flemish artists working in Rome This suggestion is based, not very convincing, on his practice during the years 1657-1658 to sign his works with his name followed by: ‘alias (and a drawn stick figure)’ Some interpret this as a reference to a ‘nickname ‘(The nickname of a Bentvueghels member) – The scarecrow – but there are no documents confirming this
In 1657 Van Aelst returned to the Netherlands with Otto Marseus van Schrieck. He settled on Bloemgracht in Amsterdam On New Year’s Day 1678, Willem van Aelst renounced at the age of 51 with his household aid Helena Nieuwenburghs, a German and “out 35 years” They married on January 15, 1679, and after that three more children were born
Maria van Oosterwijck, Isaac Denies, Ernst Stuven and Rachel Ruysch learned the subject with him His followers were Anthonie Beauregaert and Cornelis Lelienbergh Van Aelst influenced the work of Johann Daniel Bager, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Jan van Huijsum, Frank Pietersz Verheyden A Paolo Porpora
Van Aelst specialized as one of the first artists on hunting stillings. He is considered a follower of Otto Marseus van Schrieck.
Van Aelst’s work can be found in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, in the National Gallery of Art at Washington D.C. and in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.