HERCULES SEGERS, 17th CENTURY DUTCH ETCHER & PAINTER

Introduced by Gerard Bellaart on 12 May 1997

Gerard Bellaart, an artist who has studied Segers' work, outlined his life (1590 - 1638) in the Netherlands and, helped by slides of his work, explained that Segers' main preoccupation was in experimenting with etching techniques to explore the rendering of surface textures in his compositions. He was not concerned with making a living from his art, though he did sell a painting to the King of Denmark in 1621. He sank into obscurity until the 19th century when there was a revival of interest in etching but prints from his etchings are few and mainly in museums in Amsterdam, Brussels and London.
His etchings were not concerned with making copies of paintings or depicting objects or scenes, the photographic' recording usual in his day, but were of rugged, almost lunar landscapes (though he could never have seen any, as he never in his life left the Netherlands), woods and trees, castles and ruins, seascapes and ships, and still-lifes, without human figures and emphasising mood by means of texture and tones. Some of the examples shown had a brooding contemplative character and a few the feel of some Chinese paintings.
Etching is a technique well suited to Segers' purpose. He developed a German technique of allowing the acid to eat away at the scribed lines and even into the protective coating of the plate, transferring a painting technique to etching. He pulled prints from an inked plate at many stages as he developed the overall effect he was seeking by successive and selective applications of coatings of various kinds followed by further biting by the acid; there was an element of chance in the way the acid attacked which Segers deliberately exploited. In many of his works scribed lines have almost disappeared as the acid creates broader textures. He used colour in a number of ways sometimes printing in white on coloured paper.
Segers was not interested in finished form but in the transparent rendering of light, tonal quality and texture of surface. His work exhibits the purist use of etching.

John Coates