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christoph nathe
(1753 Nieder-Bielau near Görlitz – 1806 Schadewalde)

Landeskrone Hill near Görlitz. Pen and point of brush in brown and grayish brown ink over graphite. 23.2 x 36.6 cm.

This extraordinarily beautiful and sensitive drawing shows the silhouette of Landeskrone Hill not far from the town of Görlitz, where Christoph Nathe lived and worked from 1787 to 1798. The scattered, nicely drawn half-timbered houses are typical of Nathe’s native region of Lusatia in the east of Germany along the Czech border. The drawing, which was probably made in the 1780s, shows a composition scheme highly characteristic of Nathe and one he often used. In the right foreground, illuminated by bright sunlight, sits the solitary figure of a girl picking herbs or flowers. She serves to indicate the scale and extent of the surrounding landscape and the sense of seclusion it conveys. This is rendered in a minute and extraordinarily refined brush technique, which uses parallel lines of varying size and density and wonderfully captures the play of the light on the landscape and in the foliage of the two trees in the foreground. To portray the wood in the background, the crest of the hill and the clouds Nathe uses a more flowing, transparent brushwork technique (a drawing in similar style is reproduced by DaCosta Kauffmann in Central European Drawings 1680–1800 / A Selection from American Collections, Princeton 1989, p. 264, no. 100). Nathe’s unaffected approach to nature exudes great spontaneity and freshness. The rendering of the clear, streaming sunlight has become the real subject of the drawing and lends the scene a poetry all its own. The pictorial motifs of the individually arranged trees in the foreground and the solitary figure of the wanderer emanate a great symbolic force and reveal a sensitivity to nature that anticipates the landscape art of Caspar David Friedrich.