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Emanuel Steiner

(1778–1831, Winterthur)

An Arcadian Landscape with Lush Deciduous Trees and a Round Temple. Pen and brown ink. 30.5 x 40.5 cm. Circa 1805–10.

This impressive landscape with its consummate penwork is a typical example of the work of Emanuel Steiner, a painter and etcher from Winterthur. Steiner received his initial training from Johann Rudolf Schellenberg, a very prolific etcher and illustrator active in the last three decades of the 18th century in Basel and Winterthur. From 1796 to 1798 Steiner continued his artistic studies in Dresden under Anton Graff, who also hailed from Winterthur, and Adrian Zingg, and spent the years from 1801 to 1803 in Rome. In this period Steiner drew numerous studies of nature, which he later used as designs for his highly finished landscape drawings after returning to Switzerland. These drawings, executed with painstaking care and scrupulous attention to detail, date to a creative phase between 1805 and 1810 when Steiner also learned the art of etching.

Our pastoral landscape displays refined linework of great graphic delicacy. Steiner is a past master of the art of hatching and can draw on a very varied repertoire of graphic abbrevia­tions. Compact, velvety black cross-hatching alternates with lighter, transparent areas, thus creating a convincing and appealing atmospheric effect. The artist deliberately uses this explicitly graphic and sophisticated drawing technique to create the impression of a drawn “etching”. In stylistic respects Steiner’s drawings recall the early etchings of Johann Christian Reinhart and it is therefore no coincidence that in the past his drawings were often attributed to the latter. The broad southern landscape, invigorated by ancient ruins and a shepherdess with her flock, radiates a natural lyricism that is remi­niscent of Reinhart. The majestic deciduous trees are drawn with great verve and variation. Individual topoi, such as the round temple inspired by the Temple of Sybil in Tivoli, and the rocky coastline on the horizon, which is reminiscent of the island of Capri, blend to form a harmonious ensemble. Drawings of this kind must have struck contemporary observers as the perfect evocation of Italy and the yearnings it inspired.

A draw­ing of similar style is to be found in the collection of Dräger/Stubbe 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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