Hendrik Goltzius  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Hendrik Goltzius (1558 - January 1, 1617), Dutch printmaker, draftsman, and painter, was born at Millebrecht, in the duchy of Julich. He was the leading Dutch engraver of the early Baroque, noted for the grotesqueness and extravagance of his designs.

After studying painting on glass for some years under his father, he was taught the use of the burin by Dirk Volkertszoon Coornhert, a Dutch engraver of mediocre attainment, whom he soon surpassed, but who retained his services for his own advantage. He was also employed by Philip Galle to engrave a set of prints of the history of Lucretia.

At the age of 21 he married a widow somewhat advanced in years, whose money enabled him to establish at Haarlem an independent business; but his unpleasant relations with her so affected his health that he found it advisable in 1590 to make a tour through Germany to Italy, where he acquired an intense admiration for the works of Michelangelo, which led him to surpass that master in the grotesqueness and extravagance of his designs. He returned to Haarlem considerably improved in health, and laboured there at his art till his death.

Goltzius ought not to be judged chiefly by the works he valued most, his eccentric imitations of Michelangelo. His portraits, though mostly miniatures, are masterpieces of their kind, both on account of their exquisite finish, and as fine studies of individual character. Of his larger heads, the life-size portrait of himself is probably the most striking example. His masterpieces, so called from their being attempts to imitate the style of the old masters, have perhaps been overpraised.

Goltzius brought to an unprecedented level the use of the "swelling line", where the burin is manipulated to make lines thicker or thinner to create a tonal effect from a distance. He also was a pioneer of "dot and lozenge" technique, where dots are placed in the middle of lozenze shaped spaces created by cross-hatching to further refine tonal shading.

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Hollstein credits 388 prints to him, with a further 574 by other printmakers after his designs.

In his command of the burin Goltzius is not surpassed even by Dürer; but his technical skill is not equally aided by higher artistic qualities. Even, however, his eccentricities and extravagances are greatly counterbalanced by the beauty and freedom of his execution. He made engravings of Bartholomeus Spranger's paintings, thus increasing the fame of the latter - and his own. Goltzius began painting at the age of forty-two, but none of his works in this branch of art--some of which are in the imperial collection at Vienna--display any special excellences. He also executed a few pieces in chiaroscuro.



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