A Dutch painter, well know for his landscape work, Poelenburgh is mentioned as an artist who aspired towards styles of the masters, though this was praise, and not a belittling of his work. It is said that he strived to capture human figures as Raphael (1483 – 1520) the Italian master did and to paint landscapes as the Baroque master, Claude Lorrain did (1600 – 1688). These unique aspirations were also enhanced by an influence from the German born, Italian styled, innovator of landscapes, Adam Elsheimer (1578 – 1610).
A good example of Elsheimer’s influence in Poelenburgh’s work is seen in the piece Mercury and Batto, which is now in the Uffizi Gallery. Here his mythological figures are the focus, but do not overtake the small scale painting, using Arcadian landscapes with ancient ruins in the background. Several of his works depict historic, sometimes biblical, people and events, set against ancient structures, including Ruins of Ancient Rome from 1620 and Rest on the Flight into Egypt, from 1640. Though he also painted some portrait work as well, but it was not as well regarded as his landscapes. He was originally a student of the Dutch artist Abraham Bloemaert (1566 – 1651); a Mannerist in style who introduced Poelenburgh to Italian painting. Poelenburgh extended this Italian influence throughout his career.
The Italian influence grew stronger in Poelenburgh as he spent close to eight years in Rome and some time in Florence. In Rome he associated with other artists from the Netherlands in a club called Schildersbent. His commissions while in Italy included those from the Medici Family, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Returning to his birth home of Utrecht with success in his pocket, he was appointed as an official guide to the city for Flemish master painter, Pieter Rubens (1577 – 1640). He was also invited to paint for Charles I (1600 – 1649) King of England and worked in England between 1638 and 1641.
Poelenburgh had several followers and his influence was substantial throughout the 18th century. His works can be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, among several other private collections.