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Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder

(1759 Berlin – 1835 Dessau)

Tree Study. Graphite drawing. 23.8 x 31.8 cm. Inscribed: “C.W. Kolbe 1823”.

Carl Wilhelm Kolbe had been trained in figure studies, but his real interest was in landscapes, Anthonie Waterloo and Salomon Gessner being cited as examples for him to follow. Kolbe composed his landscapes and idyllic scenes in the studio after his own sketches. The present study of a willow has been modelled with a sure hand and vigorous linework. The delicate drawing in soft graphite creates a delightful natural impression of great vitality. It is inscribed at the bottom left and dated 1823.

Carl Wilhelm Kolbe took up art fairly late in life and worked solely as a draughtsman and etcher. He was also active as a linguist, wrote several noted philological treatises and was awarded a doctorate at the University of Halle in 1810. Kolbe began his art studies at the Berlin Academy in 1790 at the suggestion of Daniel Chodowiecki. He proved a talented student and was granted full membership of the Academy as early as 1795. The same year he settled in Dessau where Prince Leopold Friedrich Franz von Anhalt (1740–1817) appointed Kolbe court engraver and a teacher of art and French at the Philanthropium. Although the position enjoyed little prestige, Kolbe proved an influential teacher who numbered the brothers Olivier and Franz Krüger among his pupils.

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