christoph nathe
(1753 Nieder-Bielau – 1806 Schadewalde)

The Large-scale Landscape with the Landeskrone Moun­tain near Görlitz. Etching. 20.9 x 25.8 cm. Nagler 14, Rümann 50 III, Fröhlich G 50 III.

This highly elaborate and subtly executed landscape etching shows the silhouette of the Landeskrone, a mountain located near the town of Görlitz, where Christoph Nathe lived and worked from 1787 to 1798. All his life Nathe took an intense interest in the various printmaking techniques and worked systematically on the publication of his entire graphic œuvre. His premature death put an end to this project, however, and the collection “Sammlung radirter Blätter”, containing 48 plates, was issued posthumously in 1808 by Karl Christian Heinrich Rost, a publisher from Leipzig.

Nathe had made his first ventures into etching in the late 1770s while studying in Leipzig and it seems likely that he was introduced to the technique by his teacher, Adam Friedrich Oeser. The early prints show the influence of the landscape etchings of Johann Christian Klengel (1751–1824), who was then held in high esteem and had an extensive printed œuvre to his credit. However, it was not long before Nathe developed an even greater technical mastery and an unmistakable personal style which was characterized by a highly concentrated style of drawing and an uncanny sense of the atmospheric gradations of landscape (see Anke Fröhlich, “Einer der denkendsten Künstler unserer Zeit”. Christoph Nathe 1753–1806, Bautzen 2008, pp. 122–128).

The present print, dating from the 1790s, is a characteristic example of his mature style. By means of an intricate use of line the features of the terrain and vegetation in the foreground are rendered in painstaking detail. Yet the overall effect is not pedantic, but of an amazingly majestic sweep. Stage biting has been employed to create silky smooth transitions, making the foliage of the trees seem wonderfully fluffy. At a few places in the left foreground the artist has cleverly used the white tone of the paper to make the boulders gleam in the sunlight. As it stretches into the middle distance towards the horizon the land­scape becomes more open and transparent, creating a compelling sense of depth. A few delicate lines are used to sketch in the contours of the clouds, while the sky is indicated by fine, parallel wavy lines, lending it a light vibrancy. Barely visible in the foreground, two men have paused to rest on the boulders. Like the artist, they are at one with the endlessly varied and fertile nature that surrounds them. A superb, differentiated and tonal impression with wide margins. Slight signs of ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.