CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The artful image: the Haarlem mannerists 1580-1600

Exhibition: 10 October 2009 - 17 January 2010

From the museum press release, 30 September 2009

Flourishing Haarlem

After becoming free from Spanish control, Haarlem grew in the 1580s into one of the leading artistic centres in the young Republic of the Netherlands. Central to this blossoming prosperity were artists such as Karel van Mander, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, and, not least of all, Hendrick Goltzius. Together they formed a study circle devoted to Haarlem Mannerism, as it became known. Their particular pictorial language was characterised by a strong awareness of style and cultivated elegance, not to mention a pursuit of an expression that prioritised artful ingenuity over naturalism. Their work depicted exaggeratedly brawny musclemen, violent drama, wild fantasy, and a rare richness of detail. Publication of these engravings meant at the same time that the Haarlem mannerists’ works quickly became accessible to many, and at a low price, and so their distinguishing trademarks were also passed down to subsequent generations of Dutch artists. The dissemination of graphic works also went hand in hand with the dawning theorisation of art that characterised the 16th century.

Original and copy

The exhibition at the National Gallery of Denmark makes copper engraver and publisher Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) its natural focal point. It was in his workshop that the Haarlem artists developed their unique engraving style, and it was his publishing house that published the majority of prints at the highpoint of Haarlem mannerism. Together with colleagues and students, Goltzius personally reproduced a long series of artworks by international masters, especially Italians. But, as the exhibition shows, reproduction engraving by the Haarlem mannerists rapidly turned into a special and independent art form, in which the graphic artist was judged on his degree of technical inventiveness and ability to interpret the original whilst adding in his own artistic expertise and creativity to the work. The engravers competed amongst one another and their prints soon attained a paradoxical degree of independence underpinned by the fact that many contemporaneous painters used them as models for their own works. When looking at Danish ecclesiastical art from 1580-1700, one again sees Haarlem-inspired imagery occurring in the form of carved or painted figures in numerous altarpieces, pulpits and epitaphs.

From the collection of Christian IV

The exhibition in the National Gallery of Denmark shows a total of 72 works, a selection of the sought-after collection of Dutch graphic art in the Royal Collection of Prints and Drawings, supplemented with individual works from the museum’s painting and sculpture collection. The museum’s collection of Dutch mannerism was established under Christian IV, who, in keeping with the international fashion at royal courts of the time, had his castle decorated with mannerist art obtained almost exclusively from the Netherlands.

Book release

In conjunction with the exhibition, the National Gallery of Denmark is releasing a richly illustrated catalogue that provides an extensive overview of the Haarlem mannerists.

The Artful Image. Haarlem-Mannerists 1580-1600
Foreword by Karsten Ohrt, main article by David Burmeister Kaaring.
56 pp. Danish with English version
ISBN-13: 978-87-92023-39-1


Beckett Fund