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Arcadian Landscape with Figures. Pen and brown ink and watercolour. 18.3 x 22.3 cm. Circa 1810–15.
Franz Kobell was an extremely prolific draughtsman who was trained by his brother Ferdinand – his senior by nine years – and decisively influenced by the idealistic landscape painting of Lorrain and Poussin during his sojourn in Rome (1779–84). Most of the landscape compositions he executed in Italy are pen-and-ink drawings with wash, while watercolour sheets occur less frequently. As a draughtsman Kobell adopted a very systematic approach, skilfully and imaginatively combining certain compositional elements such as waterfalls, picturesque sections of cliff and groups of trees. In other words he produced constant variations on a theme. In adopting this procedure he did not rely on nature studies, but instead drew freely on his memory in dashing off his ideal landscapes. Hence his drawn œuvre is correspondingly extensive.
This almost serial production of ideal landscapes greatly impedes the dating of individual works, most of which are unmarked. Although watercolour sheets occur in the Roman period, they are also represented in the late work in a style that is basically unchanged. In the case of the present drawing, however, stylistic analogies with certain other dated works appear to indicate that it was executed in Munich between 1810 and 1815. Despite a certain standardization of theme the present image is striking for the freshness of its observation of nature and subtle use of watercolour technique.