A Book of British Etching: From Francis Barlow to Francis Seymour Haden

By Walter Shaw Sparrow | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II
WITH HOLLAR AND VAN DYCK MAINLY

I

IT is right to begin with Hollar, the etching historian of seventeenth- century London and Windsor, and much more that is entertaining. His versatility embraces architecture, topography, landscape and seascape, portraiture, costume, natural history, allegory, mythology, scriptural subjects, historical pieces, still life of many kinds, and also sporting scenes (after Francis Cleyn and Francis Barlow). What a diversity of appeal I And it comes to us, not from flightiness of temperament, but from a simple-hearted and firm liking for all visible things. Hollar could have applied to himself, quite justly, what Montaigne answered when praised by Henry III of France. Henry said, "I like your book." "Then," returned Montaigne, "Your Majesty must needs like me. My book is myself." Similarly, Hollar's etched work is autobiography as well as graphic art. We find in its prints and drawings the bitter struggles of his life and his full character, which students love increasingly.

A long grapple against bad times compelled Hollar to do a great many hack jobs, yet even this part of his immense output has qualities of honour, giving more in skilled workmanship than the small payment he received really bought from his daily needs as a married citizen. When we remember that Parthey's catalogue of Hollar's etchings contains more than 2700 plates, though incomplete, the marvel is that he did not suffer much more than we perceive from incessant overstrain. There is never any need to think worse of his breaks and falls than we do of a good athlete who finds a running track too heavy for his physical strength, or is put out of form by too much training.

-14-

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