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Johan Christian Clausen Dahl

(1788 Bergen – 1857 Dresden)

„Norwegian Coast during a Storm". Etching. 11.7 x 15 cm. 1819. Andresen 3.

The printed œuvre of Johan Christian Dahl amounts to exactly three etchings, of which the present, extremely rare sheet represents the artist’s earliest attempt in this field. The etching dates from 1819, the year in which Dahl made his first much acclaimed, public debut as a landscape painter in Dresden. After studying at the Copenhagen Academy the artist had arrived in the Saxon capital in 1818 on his way to Italy. He was to remain in the city all his life, becoming a member of the Dresden Academy in 1820. Moreover, Dahl was bound by ties of close friendship and artistic symbiosis with Caspar David Friedrich, with whom he shared a house from 1823 onwards.

Dahl’s Norwegian landscapes with their atmospheric spell, verve of execution and monumental scale had a great effect on his contemporaries. Even in a small format the present etching convincingly reflects these merits of his romantically imbued art. A favourite motif of Dahl’s is the shipwreck. For a first work this etching is handled in an astonishingly concentrated and skilful way. The sureness of line and the subtlety and variety of hatching create a scene from nature of great atmospheric density. Storm-tossed waves wash away the fragments of a shipwreck to hurl them against a menacing cliff massif, which dominates the left half of the image. On the horizon to the right we can see the outline of a small sailing ship, which has been dashed against the rocks. Almost invisible to the beholder, a survivor and a dog cower together in the shadow of the massive cliffs, thus symbolizing the helplessness and frailty of man when faced with the forces of nature.

A splendid, crisp impression with full margins. Minor aging and foxing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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