Holbein in England, Tate Britain

Holbein in EnglandTogether with Da Vinci and Hockney, Holbein in England made a for a recent weekend of artistic contrast. There is a flavour of Henry VIII’s time (some things never change; Holbein had to become a denizen as the use of foreign labour had provoked riots) but this was the weaker experience.

It may be an eccentricity on my part, but I was strangely reminded of Warhol. It’s the idea of producing art on a factory system; Holbein was perfecting the craft of capturing a likeness that would please its subject and the artist’s patron and so much of the work is credited to his workshop rather than the great man himself. Perhaps most importantly, his subjects may have been the biggest names from the court of Henry VIII, but the artist has eclipsed so many of them in stature and religious painting (which to be fair, Holbein only seems to have done because he had to) has never done it for me.

One thought on “Holbein in England, Tate Britain

  1. It’s interesting to see them not uploading most images ‘for copyright restrictions’, despite the fact that many of these are actually available on the web. My MA dissertation was on Edward VI, and his portraits, of which the images are not shown, do exist online.

    To address what you said about Warhol, you’re quite right. It’s not just the absence of our modern idea of originality in art, it’s also the whole workshop system, but it probably has to do with the perception of art itself. Sculpture and architecture are best examples even for the 16th c., in that architect or sculptor as occupations are often merged with those of master mason or carver, respectively. It makes sense, but it also equals art to craft. More or less the same was for painting. But I especially liked Holbein’s designs for jewellery and houseware. Would be nice to see any actual models.

Leave a Reply