bohemian, active in london
One of the premier etchers and draftsmen of the 17th century, Wenceslaus Hollar is known for his landscapes, architectural and topographical views, still lifes and depictions of women’s fashions. A prolific artist, he created 2,525 prints according to the latest catalog raisonné, with another 115 prints tentatively attributed to him. Hollar was born in Prague on July 23, 1607. His father, the Registrar in the law court in that city, had been knighted by Emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612); his mother was from minor nobility. Nothing is known about his early artistic training in Prague, although he did make a few etchings. Hollar left Prague for Germany in 1627, for reasons not known. He first worked in Stuttgart and Strasbourg, and then in 1631 in Frankfurt where he was apprenticed to the engraver Matthaeus Merian (1593-1650). He moved to Cologne in 1632. During trips up the Rhine to Mainz in 1632 and to Amsterdam and other Dutch cities in 1634, Hollar made drawings that led to 24 landscape etchings published in 1635 (Holl. 113-136). Fate intervened in his life in 1636 with the arrival in Cologne of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey (1585-1646), on a diplomatic mission to Rudolph II in Prague. A passionate art collector, Arundel stopped in Cologne to see an art dealer. Somehow Hollar was introduced to Arundel and was added to his traveling party, probably to record the journey and make etched reproductions of Arundel’s collection. Hollar made over 100 sketches on this journey, including a drawing of Prague that he later turned into an etching. On meeting the Emperor in July, Hollar’s patent of nobility was recognized. Hollar then traveled to England with Arundel, reaching London by the end of the year. As a member of Arundel’s household, Hollar made prints and drawings after his patron’s art collection, but was allowed to work for others as well. The approximately 60 prints he made while in Arundel’s service covered a wide range of subjects, including portraits, landscapes, architectural views and depictions of women’s fashions. He also served as a drawing instructor for the King’s children. He married Margaret Tracy (d. 1653), one of the Countess of Arundel’s ladies-in-waiting, in 1641. After the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642, Arundel left England for the Continent. Hollar’s print production increased during the three years that he remained in England years. Over half of his 140 prints from this time were women’s fashions, including two sets of "The Four Seasons" depicting women in attire appropriate for each of the seasons (Holl. 332-335 and 438-441) and sill lifes of fur muffs. Hollar moved to Antwerp by the end of 1644; he was registered with the artists’ Guild of St. Luke there as a “free master”, a painter and an etcher, during the Guild’s year 1644-1645. He lived there through 1651, creating some 350 prints. He added depictions of butterflies and seashells to his repertoire. His reputation as a very skilled etcher was well established, but he was not financially successful. The story that Hollar paid a hundred guilders for an impression of Rembrandt van Rijn’s (1606-1669) "Christ Healing the Sick" during this time seems doubtful. Hollar had returned to England by 1652, after the end of the Civil War. About half of the more than 1,100 prints he made over the remaining 25 years of his life were illustrations for books published by the antiquary Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686) and the publisher John Ogilby (1600-1676). Hollar’s etchings for Dugdale included illustrations for a history of English monasteries in three volumes (1655-1673), the "Antiquities of Warwickshire" (1656) and the "History of St. Paul’s Cathedral" (1658). His works for Ogilby included illustrations for Ogilby’s luxury edition of Virgil (1654), a book describing the passage of King Charles II (1630-1685) through London to his 1662 coronation, and "Aesop’s Fables" (1665). In addition Hollar created maps, frontispieces and illustrations for a variety of publishers. In 1666 he was appointed as the Scenographer to King Charles II. He traveled to Tangiers in 1669 with Henry Howard (1628-1684), the 6th Duke of Norfolk and grandson of his earlier patron Arundel; about 30 panoramic watercolors and other drawings re cording the trip survive. He continued to work until the end of his life, producing 53 etchings for a book during 1676 and 1677. Never wealthy, he died on March 25, 1677 in poverty, apparently while working on a plate. One of his contemporary biographers described him as “always uneasie if not at work.” (TNB 3/2013) Selectd bibliography: Godfrey, Richard T.: Wenceslaus Hollar: A Bohemian Artist in England. Exhibition catalogue. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. Pennington, Richard. “The Life of Hollar,” in A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar, 1607–1677, pp. xix-li. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Turner, Smon. “Wenceslaus Hollar,” Chronology and Introduction, in Hollstein, F. W., The New Hollstein: German engravings, etchings and woodcuts, 1400-1700. Part IX, pp. xi-xxiv, xxxvii-xlviii. Ouderkerk aan den Ijssel: Sound & Vision Publishing; London: British Museum, 2012.