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Study of a Tree Trunk. Watercolour. 27.8 x 20.7 cm. Monogrammed, inscribed and dated: "J. J. F. Albano 1843".
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The weathered tree trunk stands out starkly from the white background. Using a fluent and astonishingly accurate watercolour technique, the artist succeeds in conveying the colouristic values of the bark with great subtlety and variation. The terrain is summarily indicated with a few strokes of the brush. The number 2 in pencil is discernible in the bottom left-hand corner, signifying that this fine and perfectly preserved study sheet was probably taken from a sketchbook.
The author, Johann Jakob Frey, a landscape painter from Switzerland, studied art in Basle and then went to Paris, where he initially earned a living by copying 17th century Dutch masters. The support of a patron from Munich enabled Frey to travel to Rome in 1835. Following interludes in Naples, Sicily, Spain and Egypt the artist finally settled in Rome in the summer of 1843. There he married a Roman woman, became a founding member of the local Deutscher Künstlerverein and developed into a productive landscape painter. His studio was a popular meeting place for the foreign artists living in Rome and was visited by high-ranking aristocratic guests, including King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, who commissioned a series of Italian landscapes from Frey for the Marble Palace in Potsdam.