26 April 2016 | l_rawjalaurence
Vivid Biography of a Painter who Sacrificed his Talent for Money
According to this biography presented by Waldemar Januszczak, Hans Holbein was perhaps the most popular portrait painter of his day. Almost anyone who was anyone in the Tudor court from Henry VIII downwards had themselves committed to canvas; if you were unfortunate enough to be excluded, then your social standing might be affected.
Holbein was not interested in faithful reproductions, but concentrated instead on representing what the sitters would like to be. Hence Henry VIII was portrayed as a young virile heroic person rather than the obese braggart he might have been in real life. Sometimes Holbein's strategies got him into trouble; he crossed to Germany and painted Anne of Cleves, but his portrait was so flattering, by comparison with what Anne was really like, that he eventually got into trouble with King Henry.
Yet Holbein was a lot more talented than we might have thought. He began his career at a young age as a religious painter, and proved so successful that it seemed that he would scale the artistic heights at a very young age. Yet money got the better of him, as he moved from Central Europe to Tudor court under King Henry's exclusive patronage.
Yet he still managed to produce at least one masterpiece - 'The Ambassadors," now hanging in London's National Gallery. While Januszczak produced a penetrating analysis of its symbolic significance as a comment on the times as well as on the place of humanity, there was a strange sense in which the picture actually resisted analysis; its greatness lies in its capacity to elude critical scrutiny and just function as a brilliant trompe d'oeil.
Holbein died at a comparatively young age, but he şeft a body of work, now hanging in galleries worldwide, that attests to his genius as a painter.