Hercules Segers (Dutch, ca. 1590–ca. 1638), was a painter and experimental printmaker who invented unique printing techniques, creating original works centuries ahead of his time. Until the twentieth century, printmakers would not experiment to the extent set by his precedent. Combining both representational and imagined scenes from nature, his colorful landscapes and still lifes are completely original and otherworldly. His works are considered a precursor to modern art.
Segers’s etchings departed from traditional printing practices of the day. Where contemporary artists printed a single plate to be identical in black and white, Segers altered his plate between impressions, adding line work, cutting it down, and in some cases using two plates to create the image. He implemented the use of colored inks, oil paints, and colored paper as well as painted paper and even cloth. He painted directly onto his prints. These experimental techniques elevated his images from ordinary reproductions to individual, unique works.
Below are two images, Valley with a River and a Town with Four Towers, and Landscape with a Waterfall, Second Version, in varying states where Segers’s experimentation through the use of differing materials and techniques is evident.
Segers was highly collected in his own lifetime. Rembrandt (1606–1669) owned eight of Segers’s paintings as well as a printing plate. Rembrandt created Flight into Egypt ca.1653, pictured below, by reworking Segers’s plate for Tobias and the Angel with drypoint and burin. Segers’s influence on Rembrandt can be seen further in his own experimental prints. In the organization of this exhibition it was discovered that Segers owned a painting by Rembrandt. It was also discovered that Segers was the first European artist to use paper from the Far East. Twenty years later, Rembrandt would use Japanese paper for his etchings.
Accompanying the exhibition is a beautiful two-volume catalogue raisonné comprising one volume of plates and the other of critical texts, designed by the world-renowned Dutch book designer Irma Boom. The most substantial work on the artist ever published, this revelatory set contains detailed descriptions of all 18 known paintings and 184 etchings in full color, most of them at actual size.
Seven rare Segers etchings will also be available for purchase in a high-quality facsimile edition. The numbered reproductions, printed in Amsterdam in the size of the originals, can be purchased individually, each one from a limited edition of 50, or as a set of seven. The set, in a limited edition of 175, is presented in a luxury, handmade portfolio with a passe-partout and a text by Huigen Leeflang, curator of the Rijksprentenkabinet Rijksmuseum. To purchase visit in-store or call 212-570-3767 for more information.
The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to view the first major exhibition in the United States of the artist’s work. At The Met Fifth Avenue, February 13–May 21, 2017. The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.