He was the eldest in a famous family of artists, which belonged to his brother Sigmund and the sons Ambrosius and Hans Holbein the Younger.
In early works show the influence Flemish schools, and of Martin Schongauer. In later — the influence of the Italian Renaissance. Some of his work has previously been attributed to the youthful period of his more famous son and namesake.
Chief representative of the realistic trend in the Swabian school. Naturalism, full of life and character, not devoid of generosity.
At the mention of the name Holbein we immediately recall remarkable portraits of Hans Holbein the Younger, but very few know about the existence of Hans Holbein the Elder (OK-1524), which turned out to be as if in the shadows of the world of the glory of his son. However, this artist has played an extremely important role in the development of art in southern Germany at the turn of the 15th-16th centuries. He was the only artist among a generation who is deep enough to accept new principles of Renaissance art. Hans Holbein the Elder was the head of a large shop and has influenced many German artists, among them on such masters as Matthias Grunewald. It was the largest German portraitist to Durer. Finally, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of creativity of this artist for the formation of an independent artistic concept Hans Holbein the Younger.
Hans Holbein the Elder was born in the city of Augsburg, in the family of a craftsman, engaged in the processing of the skin. In his youth Holbein traveled. Suggest that he worked in the workshop of Martin Schongauer and visited the Netherlands. To 1494, the artist returned to his hometown and marries the daughter of Thomas Burgmeier, a prosperous Augsburg painter. He has born two sons Ambrosius and Hans. Case Holbein are going very well, he headed a big shop, one of the most important in southern Germany. First, closest aides Holbein were his brother Sigmund and Leonard Century, then in the activities of the workshop actively involved very capable of painting sons.
Prosperity workshop contributed largely to the atmosphere of Augsburg, which by the end of the 15th century became the center of Swabia, the largest trade and craft center where develop weapon business, publishing and applied art. Artists are patronized by the richest families. Augsburg humanists, advisors to the Emperor Maximilian, contribute to the dissemination of knowledge about the newest phenomena of European culture. Free cosmopolitan spirit of the city largely caused not only development of the art of painting, but also organic perception of the ideals of the Renaissance. The desire to follow the fashion and to satisfy the tastes of the educated customers led to the cult of the external beauty of the form, sometimes at the expense of loss of deep inner content. In this artistic situation Holbein better than other masters were able to perceive and Express new aesthetic ideals of the era, which ultimately determined its leading position among the painters of the Augsburg. Many of them start to imitate painting style Holbein, among his followers and disciples can be attributed Hans Burgmeier, Iorga Shaving, Martin Shaffner and some other artists.
Thank Holbein outside of Augsburg. He was invited to work in many cities of southern Germany. In 1499 he works in Ulm, two years later Holbein writes altarpieces for the Dominicans in Frankfurt-on-main. In the beginning of the century artist repeatedly executes orders Alsatian monasteries, and in 1516 he finally decides to move to the Alsace and settled in Isengame where and died eight years later. In the last years of life, after closing Augsburg workshop Holbein works together with his sons. With his son Hans he creates paintings of interiors and facades of the house of Jacob Hertenstein in Lucerne, in which the hunting scenes were combined with genre compositions. In the twenties Holbein departs from active work and only sometimes acts as an assistant to his son. It was during work above the altar Hans Override where Holbein the Elder performed only a few portraits of donators. Cooperation between family members Holbein was very close, which makes the distinction individual manner of an extremely difficult task. Probably, that is why for a long time many works of the father was attributed sons, primarily Hans Holbein the Younger, who attracted the attention of researchers.
The style of painting by Hans Holbein the Elder has undergone a significant evolution. The artist’s early works made entirely in the tradition of German painting of the 15th century. They show the influence of the Dutch school and especially of Rogier van der Weyden, expressed in carefully cut-off modeling of forms, and in abundance of naturally exact details. Three-dimensional shapes are often conditional on a gold background, are actively used Gothic decorative motifs. Already in these early works demonstrated extraordinary colouristic craftsmanship of the artist, the pursuit of adequate and zharmonizowana composition with clearly defined center. The beauty of the whole for Holbein always more important than the expression of an individual image.
Gradually in the works Holbein there is an interest in spatial solutions. If in the paintings Kaygansko altar 1502 composition is still under construction as in the landscape and the evolving parallel to the picture plane, then in two years in the image of the "Basilica of St. Paul" the artist tries to create complex, unfolding in the depth of multidimensional space. Although the coordination of plans felt the stiffness and some mechanism, urgent attention is worthy of the master’s desire to go beyond the usual graphic solutions. It demonstrates the emergence of new artistic vision.
The final adoption of the Renaissance style can be observed in the works 1508−16 years. It is noteworthy that the development of a new style begins with a close interest in Renaissance decorations. Master willingly copies architectural motifs, ornaments, sculptural decorations. The perception of the new art is not through the realization of humanistic ideals of the Renaissance, and through purely external forms, which, apparently, loved and not wanting to keep up with fashion customers. The perfect creation of Holbein is the altar of St. Sebastian, now stored in the Munich Pinakothek. The image of the suffering Sebastian majestic and monumental, each detail is felt careful the study of nature. And yet the master here cannot achieve absolute organic image. There is a feeling that for Renaissance forms is another way of thinking about art, for which the transfer of the realities of the real world is only a means for the expression of transcendental values.
Holbein worked in the environment, lived still largely medieval ideas. It is significant that most artist wrote altar images for provincial Catholic monasteries of southern Germany. For decoration of the same monasteries Holbein did and cardboard, then played in painting on glass (to have survived 17 Windows, painted by the artist sketches). The nature of the orders, spiritual environment is largely determined by several external perception of Renaissance art and culture that we see in some works of the master.
The interesting part heritage Holbein are portraits. Remained very small picturesque portraits, but there is a significant amount of drawings, mostly done a silver pencil. These drawings were created and as a supplementary studies for multi-figure compositions, and as a self-portrait images, apparently enjoyed great success. Drawings is a rare accuracy in the reproduction of reality, almost complete absence of stylized forms, perfect graphics skills. Holbein’s portraits do not attract the details, it focused on the content of the images, which emphasized the spirituality and special mood light sadness. Comparing these modest figures with the recognized masterpieces of Hans Holbein the Younger, clearly understand how much in the works of the son is rooted in a kind, considerable, and, unfortunately, forgotten art of the father.