Wenceslaus Hollar

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Wenceslaus Hollar
Wenzel Hollar nach Jan Meyssens.jpg
Portrait of Wenceslaus Hollar by Jan Meyssens (Prague Castle in background).
Born Václav Hollar
(1607-07-13)13 July 1607
Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia, (present-day Czech Republic)
Died 25 March 1677(1677-03-25) (aged 69)
London, Kingdom of England, (present-day United Kingdom)
Nationality Czech
Known for Etching
Movement Baroque

Václav Hollar (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvaːtslav ˈɦolar]; 13 July 1607 – 25 March 1677), was a Bohemian etcher, known in England as Wenceslaus or Wenceslas and in Germany as Wenzel Hollar. He was born in Prague, and died in London, being buried at St Margaret's Church, Westminster.

Biography[edit]

After his family was ruined by the Sack of Prague in the Thirty Years' War, the young Hollar, who had been destined for the law, determined to become an artist. The earliest of his works that have come down to us are dated 1625 and 1626; they are small plates, and one of them is a copy of a "Virgin and Child" by Dürer, whose influence upon Hollar's work was always great. In 1627 he moved to the region around Stuttgart; before moving to Straßburg, and then, in 1633, to Cologne.[1]

It was in 1636 that he attracted the notice of the famous nobleman and art collector Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, then on an embassy to the imperial court. Employed as a draftsman he travelled with Arundel to Vienna and Prague. In 1637 he returned with him to England where he remained in the Earl's household for many years.

Life in England[edit]

Though he became a servant of Lord Arundel, he seems not to have worked exclusively for him, and after the Earl's death in Padua in 1646, earned his living by working for various authors and publishers, which was afterwards his primary means of distribution. In around 1650, probably at the request of Hendrik van der Borcht, he etched a commemorative print done after a design by Cornelius Schut in Arundel's honour and dedicated to his widow, Aletheia. Arundel is seated in melancholy mode on his tomb in front of an obelisk (perhaps commemorating the one he tried to import from Rome), and surrounded by works of art and their personifications.

In 1745, George Vertue paid homage to their association in the vignette he published on page one of his Description of the Works of the Ingenious Delineator and Engraver Wenceslaus Hollar. It featured a bust of Arundel in front of a pyramid, symbolizing immortality, surrounded by illustrated books and the instruments of Hollar's trade.[2]

During his first year in England he created "View of Greenwich", later issued by Peter Stent, the print-seller. Nearly 3 feet (0.9 m) long, he received thirty shillings for the plate, a small fraction of its present value. Afterwards he fixed the price of his work at fourpence an hour, and measured his time by a sand-glass. Lord Arundel left England in 1642, and Hollar passed into the service of the Duke of York, taking with him a wife and two children.

English Civil War[edit]

Hollar's depiction of the Mary Rose engagement.
Woman with high crowned hat.

He continued to produce works prolifically throughout the English Civil War, but it adversely affected his income. An etching dated 1643 and epitomizing the civil war, entitled as it is: 'civilis seditio,' features a snake with a head at each end pulling in opposite directions in front of the Giza pyramids and sphinx. Hollar took his setting, presumably symbolizing longer term values, directly from an engraving published in George Sandys' Relation of a Journey begun An. Dom 1610, published in 1615.[3]

During the period of the unrest of the Civil Wars he worked in Antwerp, where he produced many of his most renowned works, including views, his "muffs" and "shells". In 1652 he returned to London, and lived for a time with Faithorne the engraver near Temple Bar.

During the following years many books were published which he illustrated: Ogilby's Virgil and Homer, Stapylton's Juvenal, and Dugdale's Warwickshire, St Paul's and Monasticon (part i.). His income fell as booksellers continued to decline his work, and the Court did not purchase his works following the Restoration. During this time he lost his young son, also reputed to have artistic ability, to the plague.

After the Great Fire of London he produced some of his famous "Views of London"; and it may have been the success of these plates which induced the king to send him, in 1668, to Tangier, to draw the town and forts.[4] During his return to England a desperate and successful engagement was fought by his ship, the Mary Rose, under Captain John Kempthorne, against seven Algerine men-of-war,--a battle which Hollar etched for Ogilby's Africa.

He lived eight years after his return, still working for the booksellers, and continuing to produce well-regarded works until his death, for example a large plate of Edinburgh dated 1670. He died in extreme poverty, his last recorded words being a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed on which he was dying.

Hollar's plan of "Old" St. Paul's Cathedral in London, 1658.

Works[edit]

Hollar produced a variety of works; his plates number some 2740, and include views, portraits, ships, religious subjects, heraldic subjects, landscapes, and still life in many different forms. His architectural drawings, such as those of Antwerp and Strassburg cathedrals, and his views of towns, are to scale, but are intended as pictures as well. He reproduced decorative works of other artists, as in the famous chalice after Mantegna's drawing.

Almost complete collections of Hollar's work are kept in the British Museum, the print room at Windsor Castle and the National Gallery in Prague. Hollar's oeuvre was first catalogued in 1745 (2nd ed. 1759) by George Vertue. The prints were subsequently catalogued in 1853 by Gustav Parthey and in 1982 by Richard Pennington. A new complete illustrated catalogue has been published in the New Hollstein German series. Much of his work is available online from the University of Toronto in their Wenceslaus Hollar digital collection.

There is a High School of Arts and Higher Professional Art School in Prague, named after him (Vyšší odborná škola a Střední umělecká škola Václava Hollara).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Richard Godfrey, Wenceslaus Hollar: A Bohemian Artist in England (New Haven and London, 1994) and Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677 (Cambridge, 1982).
  2. ^ Edward Chaney, "Roma Britannica and the Cultural Memory of Egypt: Lord Arundel and the Obelisk of Domitian", in Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome, eds. D. Marshall, K. Wolfe and S. Russell, British School at Rome, 2011, pp. 147–70.
  3. ^ Chaney, 'Roma Britannica and the Cultural Memory of Egypt', pp. 154-5.
  4. ^ Martin Malcolm Elbl, Portuguese Tangier (1471-1662): Colonial Urban Fabric as Cross-Cultural Skeleton (Toronto/Peterborough: Baywolf Press, 2013), 109-110.

Bibliography

  • Edward Chaney, "Roma Britannica and the Cultural Memory of Egypt: Lord Arundel and the Obelisk of Domitian", in Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome, eds. D. Marshall, K. Wolfe and S. Russell, British School at Rome, 2011, pp. 147–70.
  • Richard Godfrey, Wenceslaus Hollar: A Bohemian Artist in England (New Haven and London, 1994).
  • Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677 (Cambridge, 1982).

External links[edit]