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Idyllic Southern Landscape with Figures. Pen and black ink over graphite and watercolour. 29 x 22.2 cm. Signed and dated: "Dessiné par B. A. Dunker 1775".
Using delicate colours Dunker has sensitively captured the atmosphere of the picturesque southern landscape and neatly rendered the texture of terrain and vegetation with deft strokes of the pen. The lush foliage of an oak and the bare branches of a dead tree stand out against the hazy sky. At the edge of a dirt track an itinerant trader has shed his heavy burden and sat down for a rest, while a peasant woman with a child on her back regards his wares with interest. The landscape radiates a mild, light-hearted, poetic quality which owes much to the spirit of the French Rococo. The detailed drawing style and preference for genre-like figures make the present work a delightful and highly characteristic example of Dunker’s graphic art. Carefully composed landscapes of this kind were primarily intended to gladden the beholder and please the eye.
In 1765 the painter and etcher Balthasar Anton Dunker followed his first teacher, Jakob Philipp Hackert, to Paris, where he apprenticed himself to Johann Georg Wille and continued his study of historical painting under Joseph-Marie Vien and Noel Hallé. But Dunker did not long remain in the lofty world of grande peinture. He turned to etching to earn his living and became a reproductive engraver. By 1772 Dunker was working in Basel as an engraver in the studio of Christian von Mechel before moving the following year to Bern, where he was to spend the rest of his life. Dunker proved a productive worker in his new home. He distinguished himself as a printmaker, doing reproductive prints after landscape drawings by his teacher and friend Hackert up to the 1780s. He was also successful as an illustrator, creating an extensive graphic and painted œuvre which, in keeping with the zeitgeist, was marked by a serene, idyllic concept of landscape.