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Johann Adam Klein

(1792 Nuremberg – 1875 Munich)

Two Cavalry Pieces: Hussar and Dragoon with Led Horses. Two aquatint etchings. 9.9 x 16 cm; 11.2 x 17 cm. 1811. Jahn 64 III, 65 II.

After completing his training under Ambrosius Gabler and equipped with a letter of recommendation from Johann Friedrich Frauenholz, Johann Adam Klein set out on his first journey to Vienna in September 1811. It must have been shortly after his arrival in the Austrian capital that he made the designs for both the present rare, finely executed aquatint etchings, which reflect his fascination for all manner of military activities. In his autobiography of 1833 Klein says of his choice of motifs at this time: “I was fascinated by the hustle and bustle on Vienna’s streets and marketplaces and by the colourful national costumes of the Hungarians, Poles, Wallachians and Austrians on their horse-drawn carts. I studied much more diligently here than I did in the Imperial and Royal Academy” (Handwritten Autobiography of 1833, printed in: Romantische Entdeckungen: Johann Adam Klein. 1792–1875, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgrafik, exh. cat. Nuremberg, Museen der Stadt Nürnberg, Grafische Sammlung, 2006, pp. 314–323). In contrast to his contemporaries Kobell, Hess and Adam, Klein did not care much for large, dramatic battle scenes. As a draughtsman and etcher of military objects he took a great interest in the everyday aspects of military life. With a keen eye for characteristic detail he concentrated on the officers’ uniforms, the saddled and wellequipped horses, the soldiers and their camps. Later on, this obsession for detail almost proved his undoing. In Frankfurt, Klein was intrigued by a horse-drawn Prussian carriage used for transporting money and was busy making very precise drawings of it. Taken briefly for a spy, he only just avoided ending up in a prison cell.

In the present etchings his attention is focused on the representatives of two cavalry regiments. In almost identical compositions he portrays, from an unorthodox rear view, a dragoon and a hussar, each of whom is leading two horses; other members of their regiments can be seen in the half-shade in the left background. Klein’s use of aquatint ensures soft, harmonious transitions and creates an intensely atmospheric effect. Very fine, contrasting impressions with wide margins. Minor staining and traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition.

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