Leonardo da Vinci, Unfinished painting of St. Jerome in the Wilderness, circa 1480
Charlie Roberts, “The Cave,” 2009
Maria Elena Vieira Da Silva: Le couloir ou Intérieur, 1948.
Hercules Seghers, Paisagem rochosa, 17th c.
Werner Herzog will be one of dozens of artists participating in the Whitney Museum’s biennial, with an installation focused on Hercules Seghers, an eccentric Dutch artist from the 1600s whose fantastic landscapes and experiments with print techniques were wildly innovative for his time and made him an inspiration to Rembrandt.
“He in my opinion is the forerunner of all modernity,” Herzog said of Seghers. “It’s strange because he’s still unknown and he’s one of the greatest ever.”
Herzog’s foray into museum installation began when the Whitney asked if he would contribute something Herzog-y to their bi-annual extravaganza. He suggested instead showing a “real artist,” and Seghers, a favorite of his since his school days, was the obvious choice. The installation, which will include a film, is titled “Hearsay of the Soul.”
Not much is known about Seghers. Even his name is obscure: many, including the artist himself, spelled it Segers. But he was well-known among Flemish painters during the Dutch Golden Age.
Seghers’ mountainous fantasy landscapes, rendered with delicacy with paint or, using innovate techniques, in colored ink, often depicted vast distances punctuated with jagged rocks, broken trees and menacing skies. The darkness of Seghers’ scenes may have hinted at inner shadows: contemporary accounts described him as dying lonely, destitute and drunk.
None of Segher’s paintings is dated, and no more than eleven survive. The handful of paintings that do survive, says Herzog, are “beyond belief, beautiful and strange.”
Trivia: the painting is featured on the cover of the book The Rorschach Assessment of Aggressive and Psychopathic Personalities, see Rorschach.
By Nathan Ford, these paintings are a perfect blending of architecture and messy, dribbly paint. The aura that they have is set by the realism of the images themselves and the contrast to that by the way in which they have been painting giving an impression of mystical fluidity. They illustrate what I would imagine painting a dream would look like, or a half forgotten memory, I can’t even articulate how much I love all of his landscape pieces.