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Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich

(called Dietricy, 1712 Weimar – 1774 Dresden)

A Merry Company in a Lush Garden (in the manner of Lancret). Etching. 13.5 x 18 cm. Linck 52 II.

Christian Dietrich received his initial artistic tuition from his father, Johann Georg, a painter and printmaker at the court in Weimar. He subsequently enrolled at the Dresden Academy, where he studied under the landscape painter Alexander Thiele. The latter recommended his pupil to the Elector of Saxony, Augustus II the Strong, to whom Dietrich became court painter in 1731. Two years later the artist, who had called himself Dietricy since the 1730s, undertook a one-year study trip to Italy. In 1748, Dietrich was appointed Inspector of the Dresden Art Gallery, a development which coincided with a very productive period in his artistic work. A further honourable appoint­ment followed in 1763, when Dietrich was offered a professorship at the Dresden Academy. Dietrich’s paintings and prints are a perfect example of the cavalier eclecticism of his time. He absorbed the artistic idioms of the various 17th and 18th century schools, assimilating in his works influences of the Dutch Italianates as well as ideas taken from Rembrandt, Rubens, Watteau, Titian, Ricci and Rosa. Dietrich’s printed oeuvre of some two hundred prints demonstrates the diversity of his sources of inspiration and testifies to his qualities as a draughtsman. The supreme lightness of touch and emphasis on atmospheric shades in the delightful Merry Company make it a classical example of a painter’s etching. 

The depiction springs directly from the fêtes galantes of Watteau, Pater and Lancret. In rapid, fluent strokes Dietrich has sketched the picturesque park landscape and the figures gathered in it in a vivid and very reductive manner. Individual attributes, such as a lute lying on the ground, a picturesque overgrown garden vase and weathered tree trunks, enhance the poetic mood. Transparent and lightly treated parts alternate with fragrant, very dark shaded areas in which intensive use of the dry point produces a striking chiaroscuro effect. Warm, glisten­ing sunlight caresses the lushness of nature, highlight­ing the features of the men and women seeking refreshment therein. Everything is imbued with verve and a spirit of dolce far niente.

A superb, velvety and contrasting impression, printed with delicate plate tone and considerable burr. Already in 1846, Linck described the etching as “extremely rare”. In unrestored, mint condition.

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