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Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder

(1757 Berlin – 1835 Dessau)

Fourth instalment / of / twelve sheets / mostly / of land­scapes ... Leipzig, in Gerhard Fleischer’s Kunstverlag. Twelve etchings printed on nine folio sheets. Circa 40 x 49 cm (sheet size). In the original greyish-blue paper cover. Circa 1800. Martens 83 II, 178 III, 61–62 II, 68 III, 129 II, 131 III, 201 III, 57 II, 59 II, 200 III, 133 II. IM-HOF watermark.

The etching Girl Bathing, which marks the start of the fourth series of landscapes, undoubtedly ranks as one of the most appealing and fascinating creations in the so-called Kräuterblätter (studies of leaves), which were instrumental in establishing Kolbe’s reputation as a landscape etcher during his lifetime. The idiosyncratic depiction is imbued with a singular poetry and a deeply romantic atmosphere. A naked young woman portrayed from the rear, whose figure is reminiscent of the antique Venus pudica, is bathing in a pond. She appears to be almost lost in the midst of the lush, rampant foliage, which serves as a metaphor for tempestuous vitality. The weathered willow tree in the background with its bizarre, entangled branches adds a picturesque element to the scene, while also serving as a reference to the transience of all earthly life. The other works in the suite – wooded landscapes and animal studies – each illustrate in their own separate way the deep affinity Kolbe felt with nature and his acute sense of the poetry of nature and feeling for the atmospheric penetration of the landscape (see exhibition catalogue German Romantic Prints and Drawings from an English private collection, published
by G. Bartrum, London, British Museum, 2011–2012, no. 59, pp. 198–199).
The greater part of Kolbe’s etchings appeared in what he called “instalments”, bound folders which circulated among colleagues and art lovers. The individual plates were printed in different groups on folio sheets and numbered in sequence. The group of works entitled Blaetter gröstentheils landschaftlichen Inhalts (Sheets mostly depicting landscapes) incorporates five instalments issued by the Leipzig publisher, Gerhard Fischer, between 1796 and 1800. Very few copies of these series have survived fully intact, because art lovers removed the outstanding sheets from the folders at an early stage. The extreme rarity of the present instalment is enhanced by the fact that it includes the paper cover, which is often missing.

Very good, harmonious impressions, printed on the full sheet. Slight foxing, the paper cover is faded, otherwise in excellent condition.

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