IN HER BOOK The Wretched of the Screen, Hito Steyerl diagnoses the current artscape as a realm of unceasing fall: “a world of forces and matter” unmoored from history or expression, where “the lines of the horizon shatter, twirl around, and superimpose.” This contemporary miasma might find a prehistory in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, a capitalist empire of images, one similarly awash in violence, inequity, and risk. It was there that the printmaker Hercules Segers (ca. 1589–1638) worked in near isolation to create startling, experimental landscape pictures on canvas and paper. Segers’s haunting prints and oils remain unlike anything that came before them in any artistic medium, and they continue to surprise. Idolized by Rembrandt (who owned eight of his paintings) and later beloved by Georges Bataille’s circle, Segers has long disoriented scholars with his eschewal of
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