Two exhibitions focussing on an intriguing artist will open in Amsterdam this autumn. The Rijksmuseum and the Museum Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam will join forces. Both Amsterdam museums will open exhibitions on the painter and etcher Hercules Segers in October 2016.
The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum will exhibit paintings by Hercules Segers. The Rembrandthuis will focus on the importance of Hercules Segers and his experiments in etching, for artists like Rembrandt. Not that many works by Segers have been handed down, but Rembrandt did own works by Segers. As the Rembrandthuis mentions on its website “… The inventory of Rembrandt’s possessions drawn up on the occasion of his bankruptcy in 1656 tells us that Rembrandt had eight works by Segers in his house in Breestraat at that time. …”
Like Rembrandt after him, Segers liked to experiment with etching techniques and materials. A previous exhibition at the British Museum used his prints to illustrate and point out new techniques Segers invented.
While Segers was not only a source of inspiration to Rembrandt, but to a great many other artists right up to our own age, he is hardly known by the general public. So both exhibitions should offer visitors a chance to become better acquainted with a man whose etchings were greatly admired by Rembrandt.
An van Camp wrote an introduction to the 2012 Segers exhibition at the British Museum, called “Hercules Segers and his ‘printed paintings’”. This introduction already mentions the lack of facts known about Hercules Segers.
The exact years of his birth and death are unknown. His father and mother were among the many Flemish people, who had to leave the Spanish Netherlands for religious reasons. The family first moved to Haarlem, where Hercules was probably born around 1589. A few years later, they moved to Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, Hercules was apprenticed to another Flemish migrant. Gillis van Coninxloo was a painter of fictional landscapes. Like his master, Hercules specialised in fictional landscapes too. Like Rembrandt, Hercules Segers had debts and sold his Amsterdam house. In 1632 Hercules had apparently moved to The Hague. He may have died in 1638, or a few years later.
The Rijksmuseum exhibition will concentrate on Segers paintings. There are about 12 left and these are comparatively small. Experts point out the clear influence of Gilles van Coninxloo in these landscapes.
It is the etchings which make Hercules Segers stand out. Unlike his contemporaries and many later artists, Segers did not print large numbers of the same plate. Instead, he preferred to create unique prints.
Segers experimented with printing inks, etching techniques, hand-colouring, supports and printing surface. As for the use of colours, he experimented with applying these to the support before or after printing. Of the copper plates he used for his etchings, one is known to have been acquired by Rembrandt.
Some call Segers’ landscapes dreamy or even moody. Other’s call them and their creator eccentric. What is certain is that the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum and Museum Rembrandthuis will offer their visitors two interesting exhibitions. Simon Schama and a BBC team have already been spotted filming at the Rembrandthuis, concentrating on etching techniques.