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Southern Ideal Landscape with Ancient Ruins. Etching. 25.3 x 35.8 cm. Circa 1795. Undescribed.
The present ideal landscape was unknown to Andresen, whose biographical notes in the first volume of Deutsche Maler-Radirer (1878) contain basic information on the life and work of Johann Christian Reinhart. The print is also missing from the authoritative 1975 monograph by Inge Feuchtmayr (Johann Christian Reinhart 1761–1847, Monographie und Werkverzeichnis, Munich 1975). In view of its high artistic quality, however, Reinhart’s authorship appears very plausible. Stylistically, the print is very close to Reinhart’s etchings for the cycle Malerisch radirte Prospecte aus Italien (Andresen 52–75), which the artist executed together with his colleagues Albert Christoph Dies and Jacob Wilhelm Mechau for the Nuremberg publisher Frauenholz between 1792 and 1798. We see a similarly sophisticated and differentiated etching technique and a comparable compositional structure of the landscape, which ascends in parallel spatial layers. The clever use of stage biting creates a great sense of depth and atmosphere. The contrast between the dark and very densely treated vegetation in the foreground and the airy, feathery foliage in the middle distance is managed with wonderful subtlety. The format chosen for this picture more or less matches that of the etchings of the Prospecte. Unlike those sheets, however, this is not a depiction of a real locality in the Roman Campagna, but a carefully composed fantasy landscape.
Johann Christian Reinhart, who settled in Rome in 1789, was a shining light among the German artistic community there. "Handsome Reinhart", as he was called by his colleagues, was not only a highly talented artist, but also had a frank and winning manner. He was a fearless child of nature and a daring huntsman, "a lively, fiery character, gifted with wit and intelligence... " (Andresen). Reinhart’s social contacts in Rome were correspondingly intense. His closer circle of friends included such artists as Dies, Mechau, Klengel and the Dutch landscape painter Hendrik Voogd, who had moved to Rome in 1788. His profound friendship with Joseph Anton Koch, a few years his junior, who arrived in Rome in 1795, also had far-reaching consequences. Theirs was a symbiotic relationship on which they both drew for mutual artistic inspiration, which was to last all their lives. Together with Koch, Reinhart became the founder of a new, idealizing conception of landscape.
Reinhart is definitely considered to be the foremost printmaker among the German artists living in Rome at that time. He left behind an extensive œuvre of landscape etchings. Produced in the period between 1782 and 1830, they show considerable variety in their artistic approach. Intimate landscape studies remarkable for the freshness of their observation of nature and sense of realism alternate with the monumental, heroic landscapes of his mature period. In view of its idealizing tendency and lyrical mood, the present, previously unknown pastoral landscape probably dates to the late 1790s and testifies to the artist’s interest in the work of Joseph Anton Koch.
A superb, contrasting and very atmospherically treated impression with margins around the distinct platemark. Slightly foxed, otherwise in impeccable condition. From the Collection of Johann Nepomuk Seiler (1793 Munich – 1876 Kempten), not in Lugt. The authorship of Reinhart was confirmed by Dr. Inge Feuchtmayr.