“The experimental Dutch printmaker Hercules Segers (ca. 1589 – ca. 1638), one of the most fertile artistic minds of his time, created otherworldly landscapes and still lifes of astonishing originality. Rejecting the traditional idea put forth by masters since the fifteenth century that prints from a single plate should all look the same, in black and white, he produced impressions in multiple colors using innovative techniques and varied materials. He thus turned each etching into a distinct, miniature painting.
Many aspects of Segers’s life and work remain unknown. We can only guess when he was born and when he died, as well as his motivations for producing fifty-three etchings with labor-intensive methods. It is likely that many of his existing 182 impressions, found in the artist’s studio following his death, were left unfinished. Though only sixteen paintings and two oil sketches have been attributed to the artist with near certainty, Segers was highly recognized during his lifetime for his painted landscapes. He was one of the favorite artists of the Dutch master Rembrandt, who owned at least eight paintings and one printing plate by Segers.
This is the first exhibition of Segers’s work to be held in the United States, and the first to include examples of nearly all the artist’s prints alongside a selection of his paintings. Though he did not date his works, technical studies have suggested a loose chronology, according to which the pieces here have been arranged. This exhibition aims to place Segers in the context of his time and illuminate a few of the mysteries surrounding his art.” — Introductory Wall Text
Mountain Valley with Dead Pine Trees. Print, ca. 1622-1625. Line etching printed on light brown ground, varnished; unique impression. Sheet: 11 in. × 16 3/16 in. (28 × 41.1 cm). British Museum, London
Mountain Valley with a Plateau. Print, ca. 1625-30. Line etching, drypoint, and metal punch printed in blue-green, on a yellow-green ground, colored with brush; second state of two. Sheet: 4 1/8 x 5 7/16 in. (10.5 x 13.8 cm). Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1923
The Tomb of the Horatii and Curiatii. Print, ca. 1628-29. Line etching printed with tone and highlights, colored with brush; unique impression. Sheet: 5 1/16 × 7 11/16 in. (12.8 × 19.5 cm). Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; on loan from the City of Amsterdam, collection Michiel Hinloopen (1619–1708), 1885
Ruins of the Abbey of Rijnsburg from the South. Large Version Print, ca. 1625-30. Line etching printed with tone and highlights in yellow-white, on a dark brown ground. Sheet: 7 7/8 × 12 9/16 in. (20 × 31.9 cm). Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin
The Enclosed Valley. Print, ca. 1625-30. Line etching and drypoint printed in dark green, on green paint; second state of four. Sheet: 4 1/8 × 7 1/2 in. (10.4 × 19 cm). British Museum, London
The Enclosed Valley. Print, ca. 1625-30. Line etching and drypoint printed in blue, on a cream tinted ground, colored with brush; second state of four. Sheet: 4 5/16 × 7 5/16 in. (11 × 18.5 cm) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; purchased, 1874
The Mossy Tree. Print, ca. 1625-30. Lift-ground etching printed in green, on a light pink ground, colored with brush; unique impression. Sheet: 6 5/8 × 3 7/8 in. (16.8 × 9.8 cm). Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; on loan from the City of Amsterdam, collection Michiel Hinloopen (1619–1708), 1885
The Two Trees (An Alder and an Ash). Print, ca. 1625-30. Lift-ground etching printed in green, on a light pink ground, colored with brush; unique impression. Sheet: 6 1/8 × 6 3/4 in. (15.5 × 17.2 cm). Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; on loan from the City of Amsterdam, collection Michiel Hinloopen (1619–1708), 1885
Houses near Steep Cliffs. Painting, ca. 1619-23. Oil on canvas, 27 9/16 × 34 1/8 in. (70 × 86.6 cm). Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Mountainous Landscape with a Distant View. Painting, ca. 1620-25. Oil on canvas, on panel, 21 3/4 × 39 in. (55.2 × 99 cm). Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The exhibition is curated by Nadine M. Orenstein, Drue Heinz Curator in Charge of the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Met.
Images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.