Like many artists of his time, Augustin Hirschvogel (1503–1553) had wide-ranging expertise. Trained initially as a glass painter in his father's workshop in Nuremberg, he went on to learn mathematics and cartography, a field in which he made notable contributions. After leaving Nuremberg in 1536, Hirschvogel spent several years in Slovenia. In 1544 he moved to Vienna where he was employed to survey and map the city as part of the planning for its future defenses; Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Turks in 1529, an event that severely shocked the population of Western Europe. It was during his time there in the late 1540s that Hirschvogel made the extraordinarily diverting group of landscape etchings for which he is most widely celebrated as an artist.
Hirschvogel created a markedly personal style in the medium of etching, a relatively new and still developing technique that lent itself to the exercise of expressive calligraphic line in the manner of pen drawing. His landscapes evoke a distinctive flair for the rural scene that had evolved in the hands of Albrecht Altdorfer and Wolf Huber as they worked in and about the forests of the upper Danube valley. For all their stylization, the prints and drawings of the Danube school convey a vivid sense of having been done on the spot. In the case of the prints this is more likely the result of their apparent spontaneity than the literal truth of the matter. The storybook character and animated topography of Hirschvogel's etchings speak of the imagination as much as of close observation. As illustrated by the recently acquired River Landscape with a Footbridge, Hirschvogel's etchings are ultimately more picturesque than cartographic, and yet in their immediacy and pictorial economy they anticipate the very best of Rembrandt's landscapes.
Through the generosity of the Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, the National Gallery of Art has recently acquired River Landscape with a Footbridge, along with another superb impression of Hirschvogel's landscape etchings and two exceptionally rare etching counterproofs. This group perfectly complements the Gallery's already strong representation of Hirschvogel's graphic work.
lower right on cross: 1546; lower right on tablet: AHF (in monogram)
Marks and Labels
Richard Zinser; his estate; (N. G. Stogdon, Somerset); purchased 2008 by NGA.
- Schwarz 1917, 61, i/ii
- N. G. Stogdon. German Landscapes of the 16th Century. Somerset, 2007, no. 15.