About 1525 the factional strife that accompanied the Reformation made Basel a difficult place for an artist to work. In 1526 Holbein, carrying a letter of introduction from Erasmus to the English statesman and author Sir Thomas More, set out for London. He met with a favorable reception in England and stayed there for two years. In 1528 he returned to Basel, where he painted portraits and murals for the town hall. In 1532 he left his wife and children there and traveled once again to London.
In England, where he became court painter to Henry VIII, Holbein was known chiefly as a painter of portraits. His services were much in demand. The more than 100 miniature and full-size portraits he completed at Henry's court provide a remarkable document of that colorful period. An old account of his services at court relates that he painted the portrait of the king, "life size, so well that everyone who looks is astonished, since it seems to live as if it moved its head and limbs." In spite of their richness of detail, Holbein's portraits provide remarkably little insight into the personality and character of the people he painted.
Holbein also found time to perform numerous services for Henry. He designed the king's state robes and made drawings that were the basis of all kinds of items used by the royal household, from buttons to bridles to bookbindings. In 1539, when Henry was thinking of marrying Anne of Cleves, he sent Holbein to paint her portrait. In 1543 Holbein was in London working on another portrait of the king when he died, a victim of the plague.
Photographs by Mark
Thanks to Carol Gerten-Jackson's help in this section.
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