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Heinrich Theodor Wehle

(1778 Förstgen (Upper Lusatia) – 1805 Bautzen)

Arcadian Landscape with Cattle in Front of Ancient Ruins. Pen-and-ink and brush drawing in grey and black. 46.5 x 61.5 cm. Circa 1801–1805. Fröhlich Z 229. Water­mark: Large crowned coat of arms with fleur-de-lis and letters.

The outstanding artistic talent of the Sorbian landscape painter, draughtsman and etcher, Heinrich Theodor Wehle, was recognised early on. Wehle received his initial training at the Görlitz School of Drawing and from the landscape painter, Christoph Nathe. He subsequently enrolled at the Academy of Art in Dresden, where he studied under the landscape artist, Johann Christian Klengel. The recipient of effusive praise, he would surely have had a glorious career had he not met an untimely death at the age of twenty-six. His early works earned him the reputation of a first-class draughtsman and landscape painter. As a result he was first appointed a draughtsman at the Chalkographische Gesellschaft in Dessau in 1799. Two years later he took up a post at the Academy of Art in St. Petersburg at the behest of the Russian tsar. From here Wehle was sent together with the scientist, Count Apollos Mussin-Puschkin, on a study trip to the Russian parts of Western Asia, including Georgia and the Caucasus. Here Wehle made numerous topographically precise landscape studies, but he also produced ideal Arcadian landscapes, such as the present drawing, which he made with pen and brush.

The composition is inspired by a painting by the French painter, Claude Joseph Vernet, which Wehle had seen during his stay at the court of the Russian tsar. The detail of the grazing animals was not originally included in his composition, this part being added by the artist at a later date and meticulously incorporated into the existing picture. The impressive sheet with its accurate drawing style and subtle atmospheric treatment is a characteristic illustration of the talent of this prematurely deceased artist.

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