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Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617): Virtuoso Printmaker

January 10–March 22, 1987

Hendrick Goltzius was the leading Dutch printmaker of his day. His fame was assured not only by his own prolific output of almost 400 prints and his remarkable capacity for stylistic and technical innovation but also by over 500 works produced by generations of followers. His remarkable twenty-five-year career as a graphic artist is represented here by over seventy of his finest engravings and woodcuts. The son of a glass painter, Goltzius was born in 1558 in Mühlbracht, near the eastern Dutch border. As a child, he severely burned his right hand and could never fully extend his fingers. Despite the injury he was apprenticed in c. 1575 to the engraver Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert. He later settled and married in Haarlem, where Coornhert introduced him to the thriving print-publishing industry, and to Philip Galle, the publisher who issued many of Goltzius's early prints. By 1583, Goltzius was taking assistants and publishing their prints as well as his own. He made a trip to Italy in 1590–91 to study antique sculpture and Renaissance masterpieces, and to relieve his consumptive condition. Around 1600, Goltzius stopped printmaking and concentrated on paintings until his death on New Year's Day in 1617. Goltzius is regarded as the most important proponent of Dutch Mannerism, a late 16th-century movement identified primarily by anatomically exaggerated figures, contorted postures, and spatially complex settings. Goltzius’s prints are distinguished by singular boldness; elegantly stylized designs and unusual angles of vision give his images unrivaled expressive drama. A virtuoso with the engraver's burin, Goltzius was able to use his graphic technique to produce a wide range of styles and effects. With different patterns of fine, closely laid lines and dots he suggested a striking variety of colors and textures. He rendered sculptural form and solidity with an ingeniously devised web of swelling and tapering lines, and he imitated the styles of other artists so deceptively that, on one occasion, he fooled even contemporary connoisseurs about the authorship of a print. Goltzius also made creative use of the chiaroscuro woodcut medium. In this printmaking technique, gradations of tone from light to dark give forms a sense of volume. As in his engravings, the variety of his woodcut designs testify to his power of invention. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has extensive holdings of works by Goltzius, including a large number of fine impressions received with the Muriel and Philip Berman Gift of three collections of old master prints acquired from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1985. There are many prints of excellent quality, such as the grotesque Large Hercules of 1589, and a number of rare complete sets, such as the seven chiaroscuro woodcuts of antique deities. Arranged chronologically, this exhibition offers a survey of the full range of this gifted printmaker’s work.

Main Building


Anne E. Havinga
Ellen S. Jacobowitz

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