Hans Holbein 1497-1543 BACK

German artist who's father, Hans Holbein the Elder, had a large workshop in Augsburg. When this was disbanded, Holbein and his brother Ambrosius apprenticed themselves to a painter in Basel. Holbein soon won a wide reputation for his work undertaken for the Basel book printers. Besides designs for wood blocks, he was already painting portraits and commissions for churches. In his larger works a certain awkwardness and overcrowding is noticeable. In 1517 Holbein visited Lucerne and may have entered Northern Italy. Returning to Basel, he married and quickly became a citizen of importance. At this period his fame was spread throughout Europe by the ills to the Luther Bible (1522) and the woodcuts of the famous Alphabet of Death and Dance of Death. Despite this success, Holbein was driven by doubts of his financial future during the disturbed conditions of the Reformation to seek work in Britain. During his 1st visit in 1526 he was patronized by the circle of Sir Thomas More. He went back to Basel for a period, but was in Britain once more in 1532. His patrons of the 1st visit were disgraced or dead. Holbein first painted the German merchants of the steelyard and was then introduced to the king. Until his death H. was employed by Henry VIII in a wide assortment of tasks, ranging from designing court costumes, silverware, jewellery and triumphal arches to painting the actual and prospective brides of the monarch.

An excerpt from Hans Holbein by Oskar Batschmann
The sole examples of Holbein's numerous monumental decorative works to survive are the organ doors for the Basle Munster. Only some fragments, a few preparatory schemes, copies after these schemes, and subsequent - not always reliable - copies of the works testify to this important part of his artistic creation. These scanty remains are tantalizing fragments of his extensive monumental works for both private and public clients, which often constituted a substantial part of his artistic activity. Between 1517 and 1519 Holbein was engaged on painting the facade of the Hertenstein house in Lucerne. In 1521 the Basle council gave him the important commission for the painting of its new chamber. During the early 1520s he undertook the facades of the house Zurn Tanz in Basle. It is also possible that he produced two schemes for other facade decorations. In 1525-6 he produced the organ doors for the Basle Miinster and in 1530 he completed the decoration of the council chamber. Later, in London, he was involved in some similar schemes, but not as many as in Switzerland. In 1533 he produced some decorative pieces for the Steelyard and in around 1536 the mural for Henry VIII in Whitehall Palace.

The monumental paintings Holbein produced began to fall into disrepair relatively quickly, mainly because of unfavourable climatic conditions but also because of shortcomings in the technique he employed and various structural problems! This was aggravated by lack of interest in and disdain for the paintings. Indeed, by the next century few people in Lucerne or Basle were aware of the name of the artist who had been responsible for the facade of the Hertenstein house. And although Charles Patin included the altar in the Franciscans' church in his catalogue of 1676 that lists Holbein's works, the Hertenstein house was ignored. In 1825 the house was demolished, and it was probably also in the nineteenth century that Zurn Tanz suffered the same fate. (This latter house was replaced by a new building that was itself only to survive until 1907.) In fact, by 1579 two of Holbein's paintings in the council chamber in Basle were already in such poor condition that they had to be restored, or even repainted, by Hans Bock the Elder. During demolition work in 1817 and 1825, parts of the original work were found hidden beneath wallpaper; these were copied and then destroyed. The works in London fared no better. The paintings for the Steelyard were lost in a fire in the Moravian town of Kromeriz in 1752, and the mural in Whitehall was destroyed in the huge conflagration of 1698.

Image List

Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1523

The Artist's Family and Her Two Children, 1528

The Ambassadors, 1533 image viewer

Philipp Melanchthon, 1535

Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, 1542

Search for a 100% Handmade Oil Painting Reproductions of: - Handmade Oil Painting Reproductions From Just $159!

Search for Posters by:

Search Now:
In Association with

Find your favorite art:

This listing of artists is not official. It is merely intended to group the artists in an easy to navigate format.

Period List
artists by period...
Northern Renaissance ABC List
artists in alphabetical order...