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Romeyn de Hooghe: Virtuoso Etcher

Romeyn de Hooghe (Amsterdam 1645–1708 Haarlem) produced a world of art in many forms, including paintings,  sculpture, medallic art, and temporary decorations for royal events. Above all, however, De Hooghe is known for his etchings, and he completed a staggering four thousand–plus plates in his lifetime. Active at a time when the small—but wealthy and powerful—Dutch Republic was engaged in a host of interactions, warlike and otherwise, with its European neighbors and far-flung colonial interests, De Hooghe offers us a fascinating picture of the later Dutch Golden Age in all its complexity.

The works assembled here introduce us to De Hooghe’s chameleonlike versatility; from his etching needle spring complex allegories praising or lampooning powerful figures of the day like William III of Orange and Louis XIV, city maps and sea charts, accounts of battles and natural disasters both at home and abroad, rendered in compelling style. Looking at these prints, we are dazzled by the flash of fireworks, we hear the shouts of soldiers and the bursting of shells, and we witness the surging of floodwaters, catastrophically unleashed. But along with his flair for the dramatic, De Hooghe also brought erudition and intellectual subtlety to his many book illustrations (the largest single group of etchings he created), and an admirable ability to visually distill the subject matter of a varied slate of texts. With all that his images bring to the eye and to the mind, De Hooghe’s artistic gifts and prolific output make an important point about visual literacy in the seventeenth century. These dense compositions, crowded with allegorical, political, and historical figures, remind us that our powers of recognition and visual recall, media-saturated though we may be, surely pale by comparison with those of De Hooghe’s intended audiences.

At the helm of this collection, and its accompanying catalogue, is Ithaca’s own Joseph B. Dallett. Over the past five decades, Dr. Dallett has avidly collected the works of De Hooghe and made a serious study of his vast oeuvre. We are grateful for Dr. Dallett’s unusual combination of acquisitive drive with academic training and diligence, and we are pleased to serve as the venue for this exhibition, designed to bring De Hooghe’s work further back into the light. Also, because her efforts have given De Hooghe’s works renewed legibility and beauty, and strength for the next three centuries and more, we also thank paper conservator Tatyana Petukhova LaVine of Graphics Conservation Studio in Ithaca for her professional and scholarly contributions to the exhibition and catalogue.

Andrew C. Weislogel
Associate Curator / Master Teacher