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Italian Peasants and a Hunter in the Surroundings of Monte Serrone. Watercolour and pen and greyish- brown ink over a preliminary drawing in pencil. 16.2 x 24.6 cm. Signed: L. Richter.
Adrian Ludwig Richter arrived in Rome on 28 September 1823, his twentieth birthday. His sojourn in Italy, which was to last until spring 1826, is surprisingly well-documented. After initial difficulties in finding his feet in a strange country, the artist soon succumbed to the fascination of the landscape and the Italian way of life. The Italian journey proved a turning point in Richter’s life and a crucial source of inspiration for his long and productive artistic career.
In spring 1824, accompanied by Carl Wagner and Ernst Ferdinand Oehme, two of his former fellow-students from Dresden, Richter undertook his first expedition into the Alban Hills, visiting Albano and Ariccia. A second journey in the company of painter colleagues followed in the summer of the same year, during which Richter trekked through the Sabine Hills, stopping at Tivoli, Palestrina and Olevano, among other places. Like his model Joseph Anton Koch, who greatly influenced him as a painter, Richter undertook these explorations of the Roman Campagna landscape in a very systematic manner and the studies he made during these hikes form the actual substratum of his landscape art.
The present watercolour is a classic example of Richter’s romantically transfigured and idyllic view of Italy. It shows an idealized landscape motif from the region around Monte Serrone, not far from Olevano. In its careful compositional structure the watercolour is closely related to the painting Ave Maria (1834), which is now in the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig. The scene, enlivened in a genrelike way by a herdsman’s family and a hunter, is constructed out of several ascending planes, which creates a sense of immense distance. The details of the folk costumes and the vegetation are characterized with loving precision. The soft colours vividly evoke the autumnal mood of the landscape, lending the pastoral scene an atmosphere of gentle melancholy and turning it into a metaphor for the artist’s own nostalgia for Italy.
It is likely that this watercolour was executed in the 1860s, when Richter had frequent recourse to the works of his Italian years. At that time he was contemplating a journey to Italy that had to be abandoned because of his wife’s illness. The Kunsthalle in Hamburg possesses an only slightly different variant of this watercolour (see the exhibition catalogue Ludwig Richter. Der Maler, published by G. Spitzer, U. Bischoff, Dresden-Munich 2003/04, p. 180, fig. 3).