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Emanuel Steiner

(1778–1831, Winterthur)

“A Hilly Stretch of Woodland with Waterfall and Mill, etched in the style of Ruysdael and with very pleasing effect”. Etching. 39.5 x 32.4 cm. Nagler 2.

The landscape painter and etcher Emanuel Steiner was a pupil of Johann Rudolf Schellenberg, who had an extremely productive career as an etcher and illustrator in Basel and Winterthur in the last three decades of the 18th century. In the years 1796–98 Steiner received further artistic training from Anton Graff in Dresden, after which he spent the years 1803–04 in Rome and Paris. In the subsequent period Steiner worked in Winterthur as a painter (specializing in landscapes and floral themes), draughtsman and etcher. His collection of engravings forms the basis of the holdings of the Graphisches Kabinett there.

Steiner’s drawing style was initially strongly influenced by the example of the 17th century Dutch masters, yet he also worked directly from the landscape, and these studies show a freer and more spontaneous feeling for nature. The differentiated technique and painterly treatment of Steiner’s etchings are reminiscent of the printmaking style of Johann Christian Reinhart.

The picturesque wooded landscape, enlivened by isolated staffage figures, is shot through with sentimental nature lyricism. Motifs borrowed from 17th century Dutch landscape painting – especially from the work of Jacob van Ruysdael – are combined with a romantic, idyllic vision of nature. Using a meticulous, descriptive etching technique, the artist renders the tiniest details of vegetation and terrain with loving care. The print reflects the growing value placed on the art of Jacob van Ruysdael in the early 19th century, for which Goethe’s 1816 essay “Ruysdael als Dichter” (Ruysdael as Poet) had laid the theoretical foundation.

A superb impression, printing with great clarity and contrast, before letters. With margins around the distinct and inky platemark. Slightly foxed, minor ageing, otherwise in perfect, unrestored condition.

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