Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Mossy Tree

Hercules Segers, ca. 1625 — 1630
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

As mysterious as The Mossy Tree is, so too is the artist behind this work. Little is known about the painter and etcher Hercules Segers. Thanks to his earliest biographer, Samuel van Hoogstraten, we still get an impression of his tragic life: Segers’ work was not appreciated during his lifetime, and his poverty-stricken existence was brought to an early end by a fatal fall from the stairs in his home.

Segers is considered a true ‘artist’s artist’. His imaginative and desolate landscapes inspired many others, from Rembrandt to Robert Zandvliet. Also from a technical point of view, Segers’ work caused a sensation. He used complex printmaking methods and printed his etching plates with paint and colored ink, sometimes even on canvas. In this way, he completed unique examples and truly produced ‘printed paintings’.

This tranquil and timeless portrait of a tree is an icon within Segers’ oeuvre. It is the only impression of this print that has survived. Looking closely, you can see that this tree is only defined by global, calligraphic forms. The question therefore arises: is it a tree born out of fantasy, or is it a true larch whose branches are covered with beard lichen? Intriguingly, we will probably never know the answer to this question.

Leonore van Sloten, Curator, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam

Explore more

The Mossy Tree on the museumwebsite

Entry in the online collection catalogue

Read on rijksmuseum.nl

Huigen Leeflang on The Mossy Tree

Podcast ‘In het Rijks’ (27 mins, in Dutch)

Listen on rijksmuseum.nl