Hendrick Goltzius, “Cadmus Slaying the Dragon”, 1573-1617, Oil on Canvas, 189 x 248 cm, Museet pa Koldinghus, Denmark
Hendrick Goltzius was renowned as a graphic artist and produced prints and drawings using a variety of techniques, including metalpoint, brush and ink, and chalk. He was also a pioneer in the art of “pen-painting,” a technique he invented in which pen is used directly on canvas to mimic the look of a print. Goltzius impressed his contemporaries with these large, monochromatic works, which were admired for their high degree of detail and innovative process of execution.
In about 1600 Goltzius added painting to his already long list of talents. It has been speculated that the artist’s failing eyesight played a part in his decision to begin painting, which did not require the precision of printmaking. It is possible, however, that his decision was prompted by his friend and biographer Van Mander, for whom painting was the highest form of art. In 1612 Goltzius was visited by Peter Rubens, who had come to the Haarlem master in search of a reproductive engraver to make prints after his paintings. Rubens hired Lucas Vorsterman, one of Goltzius’ assistants, to fulfill this role. Rubens’ visit had an important impact on Goltzius’ painting style, which subsequently became more assured and classical in character.