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Johann Heinrich Meyer

(1755–1829, Zurich)

A Woodland Scene with a Couple Playing Music under an Oak. Etching. 55.4 x 43.9 cm. 1796. Not in Nagler; probably Brun 13.

This imposing and suggestive wooded landscape is a good example of the sentimental and poetic view of nature that prevailed in the late 18th century. The idyllic scenery seems to symbolize a lost golden age, in which people could live free from care in close harmony with nature. The majestically spreading branches of the oak function as a symbol of immortality and the anarchic life force of nature. A couple in classical dress are making music with Pan pipes and lyre, while a small boy has snuggled up to the young woman and is listening attentively to their playing. The whole scene radiates peace and happy harmony with nature.

The author of this print, Johann Heinrich Meyer, had a literary background and turned to printmaking relatively late, teaching himself the necessary skills at the age of twenty-seven. He took the work of his Swiss colleagues, such as Salomon Gessner and Ludwig Hess, as a guide. He began by copying the compositions of the former, while with Hess he went on walking tours of Switzerland in order to improve his technique and find his own vision of nature.

Although Meyer was a prolific artist who produced an extensive printed and drawn oeuvre, his works tend to be rare today. The present etching is an early, unfinished state.Thus, for example, the water of the little stream in the foreground has been largely left white; the sky is also incomplete and does not yet show the parallel hatchings typical for the final state. A superb, black and rich trial proof with margins around the distinct platemark. Slight signs of ageing, otherwise in perfect condition.

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