Karel van Mander


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(b Meulebeke, nr. Courtrai, 1548; d Amsterdam, 11 Sept. 1606).

Netherlandish painter and writer on art, active mainly in Haarlem. He is sometimes known as the ‘Dutch Vasari’, for his fame rests primarily on his work as a biographer of artists, published in Het schilder-boeck (The Book of Painters) in 1604. The book is made up of six sections, the most important of which is a collection of about 175 biographies of Netherlandish and German artists from the van Eycks to van Mander's own younger contemporaries. This is the first systematic account of the lives of northern European artists, and our only source of information about some of them. There are also sections on ancient painters (based largely on Pliny) and contemporary Italian painters. Most of the Italian material is a condensed translation into Dutch of Vasari, but it also has valuable information collected by van Mander when he was in Italy in 1573–7 or from friends and correspondents; he was sufficiently up to date to mention Caravaggio, ‘who is doing extraordinary things in Rome’. In addition to the biographies, the book contains material on iconography and a long introductory poem on the theory of painting (including a chapter on landscape). About 30 of van Mander's own pictures survive; they are mainly of religious and allegorical subjects, characterized by elongated Mannerist forms. With Cornelis van Haarlem and Hendrick Goltzius, he is said to have founded an academy in Haarlem. Frans Hals was probably his pupil.

Subjects: Art.

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