Simon Frisius

(c. 1580—1629)

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(b Harlingen, c. 1580; d The Hague, 1629). Dutch printmaker and merchant. He must have trained in Amsterdam before establishing himself in 1598 as a printmaker in Paris, where his accurate handling of the etching needle in imitation of the engraver's burin proved to be highly suitable for illustrating the books of French calligraphers. He is important for the reintroduction of etching to Holland in the early 17th century. He made prints to illustrate the Spieghel der Schrijfkonste (‘Mirror of calligraphy’; Rotterdam, 1605) by Jan van de Velde II (c. 1593–1641). From 1611 he was in The Hague, where in 1614 he became a member of the Guild of St Luke. His wide-ranging oeuvre comprises 230 or more prints of high quality, mainly etchings. Apart from the calligraphic illustrations there are prints after the early Dutch masters Jan Gossart and Lucas van Leyden, prints of historical subjects, the series of 68 portraits of artists, Pictorum aliquot celebrium praecipue Germaniae inferioris effigies (1610), which he produced for the publisher Hendrik Hondius I (1573–1650), as well as topographical views, birds and butterflies and, most importantly, landscapes. Although in two series dated 1611 and 1614 Frisius was still working after the landscape compositions of artists such as Matthijs Bril, whose schematic designs (e.g. Landscape with Travellers and a Church) were by then old-fashioned, he had earlier been the first to turn Hendrick Goltzius's innovative drawings of pure landscape (e.g. Mountainous Landscape, 1608) into successful graphic reproductions. His 53 etched portraits of the Counts of Friesland (1622), in contrast, are still archaic in feel. The estate of Frisius's wife mentioned a painting by him (untraced), while Welcker ascribed a boldly hatched pen drawing of St Jerome (1624; Amsterdam, priv. col., see Welcker, 1936, fig.) to him on the basis of a presumed signature and date on the verso. Through his business activities, his position as Dutch agent for foreign rulers and his artistic productivity, he built up a large estate, including a considerable amount of property.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.