The artist Hercules Segers (c. 1589/1590 - 1633/1640) may be unfamiliar to many, but few seventeenth-century masters evoke the starry-eyed admiration of contemporary artists more than Segers. This experimental painter-printmaker, one of the most fertile artistic minds of his era, created otherworldly landscapes of astonishing originality. His poetic etchings – often coloured to resemble paintings – were printed using techniques that were centuries ahead of their time. Without a doubt, Segers is one of the most enigmatic personalities in the history of art.

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Segers’s prints are at the heart of the artist’s later fame. With an array of techniques whose identification has puzzled artists and scholars alike, he etched unusual colourful landscapes, seascapes, biblical scenes and other subjects. Rejecting the idea that prints from a single plate should all look the same, he produced impressions in varied colour schemes, on grounded paper or textiles, colouring his prints with the brush and altering his etching plates by adding lines in drypoint. Employing a variety of unusual techniques and materials, he turned each impression of his etchings into an individual work of art.

Prints by Segers are now extremely rare. They exist in 182 known impressions of fifty-three etchings in the whole world, many of which are unique. The Rijksmuseum is fortunate to house the largest collection of works by the artist, with no fewer than seventy-four impressions. Forty of those prints and two oil sketches by Segers originate from the Amsterdam collection of Michiel Hinloopen (1619-1708) and twenty-one from the eighteenth-century collection of Pieter Cornelis van Leyden (1717-1788) from Leiden. All the prints, two oil sketches and one painting from the museum’s collection are included in this online collection catalogue. The entries reflect the results of the art-historical and material–technical research and analyses of the applied techniques that was conducted by the Rijksprentenkabinet, the Department of Fine Arts (paintings) and the Department of Conservation and Science of the Rijksmuseum in preparation for the museum’s 2016-17 monographic exhibition. These investigations yielded many new insights into Segers’s working manner, use of supports, grounds and colouring, as well as the dating of his works.

The catalogue Hercules Segers has been made possible by the Van Marle Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds, Ammodo, Turing Foundation, Douwe Egberts, FedEx, FrieslandCampina and Heineken.