He is a master of the art of etching: Jacques Callot (Nancy 1592–1635) is considered to be one of the most important late Mannerist copper engravers of the early 17th century. He worked for Cosimo di Medici in Florence and later for the courts in Lorraine and Paris, the Netherlands and Spain. That he achieved international fame – as an artist without any paintings, but exclusively as a result of his etchings – is quite remarkable.
Callot loved theatrical grotesques and elegant court scenes, while setting new standards with his war scenes from the Thirty Years’ War. His works thrive on his inexhaustible attention to detail which the etcher has lent a captivating presence, and – despite their small size – monumentality. In order to achieve this level of precision in his pictures Callot invented new etching techniques as well as employing stage-by-stage acid treatment processes for the first time to generate previously unseen spatial atmospheric effects.
Thematically, Jacques Callot also stroke a new path. With his “Capriccios“, or “Caprices”, he created a new genre which, in a playful manner, broke with iconographic rules, enabling an unchained expression of imaginative ideas.
Jacques Callot became famous for his partly literal, partly dramatic depictions of “The Miseries and Misfortunes of War” which represent one of the first series of works addressing this theme. This form was later taken up by numerous artists. The most famous works include Goya’s “The Disasters of War” and the series “The War” by Otto Dix. Instead of celebrating the victories of the rulers, Callot’s pictures depict the possible misconduct of the soldiers and describe the resulting punishments.
Both, his large format siege pictures as well as his topographically accurate landscapes reveal that the artist was less interested in politically important scenes or prominent buildings rather than the harsh as well as cheerful people’s everyday life.
His oeuvre encompasses 1,428 sheets, of which over one third, consisting of over 500 etchings, is part of the Mannheim art collection.
Kunsthalle Mannheim Website