Pieter Oyens, like his identical twin brother David Oyens, was a painter of the good life in Brussels at the end of the 19th century. When describing the life of Pieter you cannot escape from David; the brothers were inseparable for much of their lives. Born in Amsterdam, where their father, a successful banker, had tried unsuccessfully to turn his sons into entrepreneurs, Pieter and his brother were sent to Brussels in 1860. There they took lessons during the day at the private studio of Jan Portaels and at night at the Academy of Brussels. At Jan Portaels, the brothers were given a lot of freedom and immediately started painting from a living model, which would benefit them throughout their artistic career.
At the time, Brussels was a thriving city in every respect, where the spirit of the fin-de-siècle reigned supreme and a rapidly growing art market offered ample opportunity for young artists to present themselves. The brothers were not only very similar, but also their work. Their trademark would become genre pieces that were not socially engaged but showed strong personal perception. In the studio they - literally - shared together - it was divided in two by a curtain in the middle - mainly subjects from their immediate environment were painted. Art lovers, helmsmen, fellow artists, models or maids are depicted eating, smoking or chatting in their studio. In contrast to the 19th century humorous genre painter Alexander Bakker Korff, irony does not predominate in their paintings, but is in a pleasant and sometimes amorous mood. Often one of the two of them could also be seen at work - in the work of Pieter David and vice versa - with the brothers relaxing in a chair or courting a model. It is not without reason that the two brothers were called the bon vivants of painting.
The new, wealthy citizen in Brussels is lining up for their paintings and their names are quickly established. David was the first success. Because Pieter had some difficulties with David's marriage to Betsy Voûte in 1866, he lived with his parents in Amsterdam for a while. After another year in Paris in 1869, where he came into contact with Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer and David Adolphe Constant Artz, Pieter returned to Brussels in 1870 because of the death of David's one-year-old daughter and the two brothers resumed their intensive cooperation.
Pieter attached more importance to composition and drawing than David. In his own words, he sometimes worked too long on the painting, which made it look stiff. His production was a lot lower than that of his brother, who completed two paintings when Pieter made one, but Pieter 's work was more varied as he continued to explore new areas. Pieter's use of color was more reserved, he preferred not to use the bright red and blue of his brother. He made more - and better - portraits than his brother and in 1880 was even nicknamed 'Le Frans Hals de la modernité'
Pieter only married his pupil, Auguste Krupp, at the age of 51. He died a year later, in 1894, of a stroke, a month before the birth of his daughter. At the time, critics found his work to be increasingly refined and subtle, even comparing it to that of James Ensor. Only in 1902 Pieter would be reunited with his brother, who was buried next to him in Ixelles.