When researching the history of watercolor painting, reference is often made to Hans Bol, as leader of one of the first schools of watercolor painting in Germany but what else do we know about Hans Bol?Read on to find out.
Well, he was born in 1534 in Holland and learned his trade from his two uncles who were also painters. At the age of fourteen, he became an apprentice to a Mechelen painter whose speciality was ‘Waterschilderen’, large scale scenes painted on canvas using opaque watercolor or tempera which were used as wall decorations instead of expensive tapestries.
It is thought that Bol’s watercolors were so widely copied that he turned to making miniatures on parchment which earned him many international clients and a good income. In addition, Bol also produced several oil paintings, illuminated manuscripts, drawings and engravings.
Despite the war with Spain and periods of religious unrest that led to frequent upheavals in his life, Bol continued to remain one of the most prolific and successful landscapists in the Netherlands. Many of his paintings were views of the Flemish landscape, usually including small figures enacting a mythological or biblical scene. One of his most famous works of art is the ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’ which was described in detail and highly praised by Karel van Mander in the 17th century. It was inspired by Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ in which the ancient myth of Icarus is told. In fact Bol chose the Icarus theme on several occasions.
Although Bol was once an important and admired painter, he is really only known today through his small drawings and most of his larger paintings appear to have been lost which makes his miniatures all the more important, because they are probably reproductions of his grander masterpieces. Consequently, Bol ought to be viewed not only as a superior miniature painter, but above all as an important artist who played a key role in the development of landscape art.