Johannes Antonius Garemijn was born in Bruges in 1712 into a middle-class family. At the early age of four he was sent to writing school, where he soon began to be noticed for the many doodles and sketches he decorated his schoolbooks with. At age seven he was taught by Rochus Aerts, a sculptor; when he was nine he started going to the Bruges drawing academy, which he attended for three years. Garemijn was further instructed in the art of painting and drawing by Hendrik Pulinx and, later on, Lodewijk Roose. He became a teacher and headmaster at the Bruges academy in 1765, a position which he held for ten years. Garemijn was a bachelor for most of his life, only marrying his maid Francisca at the age of 79. They had three children, although it can be presumed these were more probably the offspring of his former nude model Jan-Olivier Staffijn, who lived with the couple and who married Francisca after her husband’s death in 1799.
Garemijn was a prolific artist, who produced paintings and drawings in many genres, including portraits, genre scenes, landscapes as well as several religious works – the latter mostly commissioned by the local church authorities. He was also known as a fine decorateur, for instance in designing triumphal arches for local processions and festive entries. However, today he is mostly admired for his qualities as a draughtsman, for it is in his drawings that Garemijn truly excels. His dedication to drawing is evident from the fact that he added his motto “Nulla dies sine linea” (No day without a line) to his earliest, now lost, self-portrait.
Although Garemijn hardly ever travelled, preferring to stay in his native Bruges, he was stylistically greatly influenced by great French rococco artists such as Boucher, Fragonard and Greuze. In the present tronie however, the influence of his compatriots Jordaens and Rubens comes to the fore. As with many of his drawings, he carefully dated it down to the day, indicating that it was most probably done from life.