Václav Hollar: The Four Seasons
The Graphic Cabinet, Schwarzenberg Palace
Curator: Alena Volrábová
The four seasons have a special place in Wenceslaus Hollar's wide range of themes (1607-1677). The theme was especially popular in the 17th century Low Countries. Hollar did his first artworks as early as 1628-1629 while in Germany; these comprised some of his first high-quality etchings after designs of his Netherlandish contemporaries. Soon, however, he published The Four Seasons after his own designs, displaying the maturing landscape style so characteristic of his work. Although he still depicted landscapes and views, he abandoned seasonal themes.
He returned to the theme many years later after settling in the London home of his patron, the prominent collector Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. They had met in Cologne in 1636 and Hollar left continental Europe with Howard's retinue the same year. After publishing three different series with figural costume motifs, he used his newly acquired experience to render the symbolism of the four seasons in his own style - the seasons are represented by female figures dressed in elegant clothes. He published three series with these motifs in England in 1641-1644. They seem to serve as a basis for his cycles of famed still lifes with muffs, most of which he did later in Antwerp, where he had fled in 1642 from the civil war in England. When he returned to London in 1652, it was a changed situation in many respects - the Earl of Arundel died and two major catastrophes befell London: the plague in 1665 and the great fire a year later. At that time, there probably was no longer client demand for works featuring elegantly dressed ladies. In his work, Hollar moved in a different direction and never returned to this theme again. The Four Seasons graphic cycles featuring female figures with still lifes and muffs represent the zenith of his work.