The masks of beauty
Hendrick Goltzius and the artistic ideal around 1600
19 July - 29 September 2002


The year 1600 marks a turning point in the art history of northern Europe. In 1595 the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II raised painting to the status of a liberal art, thus removing it from the traditional context of craftsmen's guilds. This symbolic elevation marked the completion of a development that began in the Italian Renaissance and culminated in the autonomy and academic status of painting. In this process, Haarlem in the Netherlands represented one of the most important art theoretical centres north of the Alps in which the new ideas were propagated.

The paintings and etchings of artists such as Hendrick Goltzius reflected this newly gained status of visual art. The synthesis of different aesthetic positions became an art theoretical programme. The Haarlem artist studied the work of the leading role models Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden, but was also influenced by the great Italian artists of the time and went on to study Roman antiquity during a stay in Italy in 1591. Goltzius worked both as a painter and a copper engraver; he founded his own publishing company and experimented with new artistic techniques.

Of equal importance, however, is the thematic content of Goltzius' art.
It demands autonomy for the medium of painting: painting must not become an instrument in a war of religion. In Goltzius' oeuvre, painting presents itself in a confident manner and his portraits of fellow artists puts them on an equal standing with the humanists and poets. Besides this, however, visual art itself, with all its possibilities and limitations, also becomes the subject of art. How should form and content relate to one another? How important is the influence of classical antiquity? How is artistic originality to be achieved? This exhibition aims to rediscover the modernity expressed in the work of Hendrick Goltzius and his pupils Jacob Matham, Jan Muller and Jan Saenredam.

The exhibition is divided into the following thematic sections: the reception of antiquity, the cult of the artist, artistic allegory and the engraved reproduction of painting.
Taking as its starting point the extensive holdings of the Department of Prints and Drawings in the Hamburg Kunsthalle, with the addition of important loans from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Teylers Museum Haarlem, the Frans Hals Museum Haarlem and the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, this exhibition of more than 90 works of art provides an incisive overview of this exciting period of art history in which visual art attained the status it has held to the present day.

Hendrick Goltzius - Kadmus tötet den Drachen


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