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Emanuel Steiner

(1778–1831, Winterthur)

A Southern Landscape with a Stag Hunt. Pen and blackish-brown ink. 31.5 x 41.8 cm. Circa 1805–10.

This imposing landscape, rendered in a masterful pen technique, is a characteristic work from the oeuvre of Emanuel Steiner, a painter and etcher from Winterthur. Steiner was a student of Johann Rudolf Schellenberg, a prolific etcher and illustrator in Basel and Winterthur during the latter part of the eighteenth century. From 1796 to 1798 Steiner continued his artistic training under Anton Graff in Dresden and subsequently spent two years in Rome from 1801 to 1803. During this period Steiner drew numerous nature studies which he used as models for pictorial landscape drawings after his return to Switzerland. These works, executed with meticulous care and attention to detail, date to between 1805 and 1810, a creative phase in which Steiner also mastered the art of etching. 

This pastoral scene shows a dense mesh of lines applied with great graphic finesse. Steiner is a master in the art of hatching with an unlimited repertoire of graphical abbreviations. Dense, dark parallel hatching alternates with lighter, transparent areas, thus creating a convincing and charmingly atmospheric effect. The artist deliberately employs this extremely intricate and subtle drawing technique to conjure up the impression of a “drawn etching”. Stylistically, Steiner’s drawings are very close to the early prints of Johann Christian Reinhart and so it comes as no surprise that, in the past, Steiner’s sheets were often attributed to Reinhart. The picturesque wooded landscape, invigorated by a solitary hunter with his dogs and a fleeing stag, emanates a natural lyricism that is reminiscent of Reinhart. The tree trunks and rocks, the terrain and the lush, southern vegetation are depicted with loving attention to detail and contain a humorous element. The dark, massive boulder in the foreground has the head of a hunting dog at one end and its back legs at the other, thus making it appear to be a stretched dachshund.

A stylistically very similar drawing is to be found in the Dräger/ Stubbe Collection in Lübeck (see Zum Sehen geboren / Handzeichnungen der Goethezeit und des 19. Jahrhunderts, published by B. Heise, Leipzig 2007, pp. 332–333). 

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