Holbein, Hans, the Younger
from The New Book of Knowledge®
Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the most important artists of the German Renaissance. But his greatest influence was on the art of England, his adopted home, rather than on German art.
Hans Holbein the Younger was born about 1497 in Augsburg, Germany. His father, Hans Holbein the Elder, was a well-known German artist. Until he was 17, Holbein the Younger worked in his father's shop.
In 1515, Holbein moved to Basel, Switzerland. In a short time he began to receive orders for paintings from leading citizens. He designed the title page for the Bible that had been translated into German by the religious reformer Martin Luther. Holbein was also a friend of the Dutch scholar Erasmus, of whom he painted several realistic portraits.
In 1526, Holbein went to England, without his wife and children. After 18 months he returned to Basel, only to move back to England in 1532. He never saw his family again. King Henry VIII admired Holbein's work, and he even asked Holbein to go abroad to paint portraits of ladies who were being considered as brides for the king. Holbein's forceful and lifelike portraits, particularly of English royalty, established a standard of portrait painting in England that lasted for centuries.
Holbein also produced paintings with religious themes, such as Adam and Eve (1517) and The Dead Christ (1521). Among his woodcuts was the famous series of prints entitled The Dance of Death (1523-26).
In 1543 a plague swept through England. Among its thousands of victims was Holbein.
Reviewed by Sir David Piper
Ashmolean Museum (Oxford University)