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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Hans Holbein

The Artist in a Changing World

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Hans Holbein

The Artist in a Changing World

Immensely skillful and inventive, Hans Holbein molded his approach to art-making during a period of dramatic transformation in European society and culture: the emergence of humanism, the impact of the Reformation on religious life, and the effects of new scientific discoveries. Most people have encountered Holbein’s work—think of King Henry VIII and Holbein’s memorable portrait springs to mind, forever defining the Tudor king for posterity—but little is widely known about the artist himself. This overview of Holbein looks at his art through the changes in the world around him. Offering insightful and often surprising new interpretations of visual and historical sources that have rarely been addressed, Jeanne Nuechterlein reconstructs what we know of the life of this elusive figure, illuminating the complexity of his world and the images he generated.

288 pages | 65 color plates, 5 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Renaissance Lives

Art: British Art

Biography and Letters

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"Hans Holbein: The Artist in a Changing World is not a biography. Instead, Nuechterlein offers a compelling thematic account of Holbein’s creative life that emphasizes the steadiness of his artistic gaze as he navigated three decades of extraordinary political, religious, and intellectual turbulence."

History Today

"This is a very fine book about a puzzling artist. Page by page, sentence by sentence, Nuechterlein brings the reader in and up close to the art. The author’s care and clarity in addressing the making of art is a match for Holbein’s art and skill. One learns a lot. It is a rare pleasure to find oneself right there as the artist makes an image."

The Key Reporter

"Hans Holbein (c. 1497/98–1543) has generated plenty of scholarship in the form of catalogues of paintings, drawings, and prints as well as serious exhibition catalogues and scholarly monographs. But he has never received an affordable, authoritative, yet brief introduction that stands on those firm foundations, often partial, costly, and/or out of print. Now, in its commendable Renaissance Lives series, Reaktion Books has published a splendid new survey by a truly authoritative Holbein expert. . . . Despite this volume’s brevity, it contains much new knowledge—especially about Holbein’s own scientific knowledge."

Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews

"This compact monograph on Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) lucidly presents the wide range of his production and social and professional circles. . . . Nuechterlein clarifies the relationships between designer, cutter, and publisher, a welcome inclusion since the division of labor among these participants in illustrated books is often overlooked. When Holbein moved to London, he found that his recommendation from Erasmus to Sir Thomas More led him to specialize in portraits of the English aristocracy but also those of more modest means. To meet the various economic levels of his clientele, Holbein adjusted his costs, working on a larger or smaller scale, with precious or less costly materials. These portraits and those of Henry VIII and his court are not only precise depictions of their features, but also insightful renditions of their individual personalities. Recommended."


“Nuechterlein presents the first modern overview of Holbein’s entire achievement and examines his responses to major changes in contemporary belief systems—Renaissance humanism, the Protestant Reformation, and new scientific and geographical discoveries—all explained with admirable clarity. Analyzing Holbein’s work across Germany, Switzerland, and England, from tiny woodcuts and metalcuts to full-size altarpieces, she brilliantly brings into focus not only Holbein’s extraordinary creative responses to change but also the people for whom and with whom he worked, illuminating Northern European art and society at a crucial turning point.”

Susan Foister, deputy director and curator, National Gallery, London

Table of Contents


1 Techniques, Materials, Skills
2 Education, Knowledge, Styles
3 Religion, Reformation, Politics
4 Science, Observation, Manipulation
5 Patrons, Status, Court

Conclusion: The Individual and the Type

Selected Reading
Photo Acknowledgements

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