The Artful Image - the Haarlem Mannerists 1580-1600

Imitation and invention are key words where Haarlem mannerism is concerned. Haarlem mannerism challenged widespread understandings of graphic and printing art while also allowing interpretation to become a form of art in itself.

During the years 1580-1600, the Dutch town of Haarlem developed into a centre for European printing arts. This was the focus of the exhibition The Artful Image – Haarlem mannerism. The exhibition contained examples of the often curious, fascinating, and generally remarkable images that characterise the art of Haarlem – and that of the Netherlands in general – at the dawn of the 17th century and the Dutch golden age.

The exhibition focused on the tension between the engraving’s dual function as both an independent art form and a reproduction medium used to replicate and duplicate the paintings and sculptures of well-known artists. By taking a closer look at both the inventions of the Haarlem artists and the way in which engravers translated original works into graphic prints, the exhibition illustrates the notion that the roles of the engraver as both copyist and creative artist were mutually supportive.

The Study Group
A defining characteristic of the Haarlem mannerists was that they actively thought about the role of engraving as a communicator and messenger of graphic art, and about the skill in imitating original works that the engravers of that era were expected to possess. These considerations were largely stimulated by the study group established by Hendrick Goltzius in the 1580s together with painters Karel van Mander and Cornelis van Haarlem. It was from within this group that Haarlem mannerism developed.

Following study trips made by Goltzius and Jacob Matham individually to Italy in the 1590s, they published a series of reproductions focusing on Venetian painting in particular. The Venetian masters were particularly renowned for their painterly use of colour. The printmaker’s mission was to achieve a translation of the colourful painting in which not the colour was to be conveyed, but its effect.

Sculptures of Antiquity
In addition to painting, the engravers were also supposed to be capable of copying sculptures. The sculptures of antiquity were a major source of inspiration for the art of the 1500s, which also left clear traces in Haarlem printmaking. They created a series of reproductions in which they tried to depict the actual act of observing the antique sculptures. They thereby emphasise that the print was meant to serve as a type of representative for their original, which could then be studied far and wide.

Thus the prints of the Haarlem mannerists explore how other works of art can be copied, while the individual copies go on to become an independent form of art in their own right, inspiring the creation of new images. In such a way printmaking could be seen as the real origin of the creative process.

Read more about Hendrick Goltzius, Haarlem mannerism and the print as a medium by clicking on the links below:

In conjunction with the exhibition, the gallery published a catalogue showcasing the Haarlem engraving arts around 1580-1600 and exploring the fundamental concepts in the exhibition. Read more about the catalogue here.

The engraving collection / Two exhibitions annually
With the 2009 exhibitions of Jakob S. Boeskov and Haarlem mannerism, the National Gallery of Denmark is working to build awareness of the Royal Collection of Prints and Drawings and the museum’s research into this rich collection of some 240,000 drawings, prints and photographs. The retrospective exhibitions thereby serve to focus on the field of artistic endeavour that the Collection of Prints and Drawings represent. Click here for more information.

The exhibition was supportet by:

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Updated: 26.apr.2018
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