Nicholas Hilliard

Life of an Artist

Elizabeth Goldring

View Inside Price: $55.00


April 9, 2019
352 pages, 7 3/4 x 11
250 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300241426
Hardcover

Published in association with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

This illustrated biography follows Nicholas Hilliard’s long and remarkable life (c. 1547–1619) from the West Country to the heart of the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts. It showcases new archival research and stunning images, many reproduced in color for the first time. Hilliard’s portraits—some no larger than a watch-face—have decisively shaped perceptions of the appearances and personalities of many key figures in one of the most exciting, if volatile, periods in British history. His sitters included Elizabeth I, James I, and Mary, Queen of Scots; explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh; and members of the emerging middle class from which he himself hailed. Hilliard counted the Medici, the Valois, the Habsburgs, and the Bourbons among his Continental European patrons and admirers. Published to mark the 400th anniversary of Hilliard’s death, this is the definitive biography of one of Britain’s most notable artists.

Elizabeth Goldring is an honorary associate professor at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
 

"This is a book I have long been waiting for, the first fully documented biography of Nicholas Hilliard setting him within the political, social and cultural worlds of his age. It will long remain the definitive work."—Roy Strong
 

“Elizabeth Goldring’s illustrated biography Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist, published to coincide with a major centenary exhibition, tells his story with all the flair of her last book, an examination of the flamboyant and (for his day) selfie-loving Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester” —Suzi Feay, Financial Times

“Before you book your tickets [to the National Portrait Gallery’s Hilliard retrospective], read Elizabeth Goldring’s sumptuous survey Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist. Goldring, whose previous book Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the World of Elizabethan Art, considered portraiture and patronage, has a fine, incisive eye. This is a scholarly book … but full of insight and courtly intrigue. [. . .] Goldring gives the bones of Hilliard’s biography [. . .] and his turbulent times [. . .] but more than that she encourages you to really look. [. . .]The close-up photographs of jewels and lace are a revelation.” – Laura Freeman, The Times

“Richly detailed and illuminating [. . .] If Hans Holbein fixed the appearance of Henry VIII’s court for the ages, it is Nicholas Hilliard who performed that service for Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth. His exquisite portrait miniatures captured not just her transition from youthful monarch to Virgin Queen to Gloriana but the constellation of her court. [. . .] for those sittings he would stare at the royal visage for hours from mere feet away. Perhaps no one else ever looked at her so intently. Goldring’s fascinating and beautifully produced book allows us to do something similar with the limner himself.” – Michael Prodger, The Sunday Times

"Elizabeth Goldring's engrossing, thickly illustrated biography shows that it was a rags-to-riches-and-back-again story. [. . .] This superb book vividly conjures a costly dresser and spendthrift, terrible with money, litigious, and sometimes slippery with creditors [. . .] Patrons bailed him out more than once, and his penultimate year was spent in Ludgate jail for debt. What humiliation for one who painted everyone who counted." —Philippa Stockley, Evening Standard

“A brilliant and definitive biography” — Jerry Brotton, Financial Times Weekend Magazine

“A fascinating and beautifully produced life of the Elizabethan miniaturist” — The Sunday Times (‘Best Recent Books’)

“A landmark scholarly biography ... Goldring excavates the connections that let an Exeter goldsmith become an artist renowned at the courts of Europe. She has rescued a Renaissance in miniature”— Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

Nicholas Hilliard not only allows us to study the artist and his gifts. It pulses too with the vivid conviction we find in JH Plumb's study of Walpole or Claire Tomalin's of Pepys. [. . .] Everyday lives in the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages are vividly rendered here. Goldring sharpens our ability to look beyond the glossy-magazine analogs of court painting and decipher, as with TS Eliot's vignette of the poet Webster, the skull beneath the skin. She is good, too, at placing Protestant Hilliard and his family in the context of the religious wars that threatened Britain for nearly a century and ravaged Europe for more than two. [. . .] At times Goldring's book reads like an Elizabethan version of a John le Carre novel [. . .] In spite of informed and scrupulous scholarship, with the author ever distinguishing what is known from what may reasonably be inferred, the narrative is unputdownable” —Grey Gowrie, The Financial Times
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