Hendrick Goltzius was born in Muhlbrecht, the Netherlands, in 1558, a descendent of a long line of artists. As a young child, Goltzius fell into a bin of hot coals, an accident that left his right hand crippled. Despite such a difficult beginning, it is remarkable that this Dutch artist of German heritage was able to become an outstanding draughtsman, printmaker and painter; his work so impressive that it was collected by such greats as Rembrandt and Rubens.
In 1561, Goltzius and his family moved to Duisburg where he was later taught by master engravers Dirk Volckertsz, Coornhert and Phillipe Galle and where he became an engraver's apprentice. At the age of 21, Goltzius moved to Haarlem, married a wealthy widow, and with her financial backing he was able to open his own printing shop. Goltzius became an exponent of Mannerism, an art movement of exaggerated conception, where art reflected one's intellect and emotion, not a realistic or classical rendering. It was in Haarlem that he formed a group with fellow artists who also worked in the Mannerist style, Cornelis van Haarlem and Karel van Mander. Goltzius' printing business evolved into one of the most successful printing houses, creating and distributing his own intricate and astonishing designs, helping to spread the Mannerist art movement throughout Europe during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. After a trip to Italy in 1590, however, Goltzius abandoned his Mannerist tendencies, and instead adopted the academic and classical approach of the Late Renaissance that was prevalent in Northern Europe. Influenced by such masters as Michaelangelo and Raphael, Goltzius' work evolved from the theatrical and eccentric style of Mannerism into more classical and realistic renderings of early Dutch panoramic landscape painting, paving the way for "younger artists like Rembrandt van Rijn."
Famous for his uniquely beautiful compositions and his printmaking expertise, Goltzius became an international success amongst monarchs and merchants alike in the 1600's. Goltzius died in Haarlem in 1617. Hendrick Goltzius' work is on display at a major one-man retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from June 26th through September 7th, 2003.