Born in Amsterdam, Johannes Kip spent his early career working as an engraver of book illustrations. In 1656, He moved to London and settled in Westminster, where he did his most important work – a series of architectural etchings after the drawings of Leonard Knyff, and published in London by David Mortier of Amsterdam circa 1708. Three other volumes followed from 1709, the second volume consisted of similar bird’s-eye views, drawn and etched by Kip, while subsequent volumes contained the works of other artists as well. A later edition was published, with a few additions by Joseph Smith in 1724-8.
Kip’s mastery of the engraving medium is far superior to the bulk of topographical engraving of the period. He had a spiritedness and lightness of touch, often reminiscent of the great engraver Hollar, while the accuracy, attention to detail and handling of light and shade sets a standard for all subsequent topographical engravers.
The plates are remarkable not only for their accuracy and delicacy, but also for the peculiar way in which Knyff was able to elevate his viewpoint, in order to achieve a far reaching bird’s eye views over vast areas of land. Given that he had no means of raising himself above the landscape, we can only assume that he achieved these effects by surveying vast areas of land and using the resultant sketches as a basis for his projections. Bird’s eye projections of this type are rare and the best examples tend to be by Dutch artists. It has been suggested that the flatness of the Dutch landscape encouraged native artists to develop the skill of ‘visionary levitation’.
In addition to the high level of craftsmanship, these plates provide valuable records of formal gardens and other lost period features. This combines with charming anecdotal details of human interest (men hunting, reaping hay, etc.) to excite the imagination, and draw us into Kip’s enchanting 18th century world.
Below are a few examples from the collection of original antique Kip etchings. Please click on an image to see it in high-resolution with details of the work itself. For the full list of views available, please do contact us.
Page in Progress