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Johann Jakob Dorner the Younger

(1775–1852, Munich)

Farm by a Mountain Stream. Watercolour over a light preliminary drawing in pencil, white chalk. 21 x 27.5 cm. Signed and dated: "Dorner 1833".

This intimate landscape impression owes its charm to its subtle colourism and perfect preservation. The fi nely graduated colours have lost none of their original freshness, creating a maximum of atmospheric verisimilitude. Using gentle greens, browns and grays, Dorner has sensitively captured the unique features of the autumnal foliage and terrain. To render the fresh, foaming waters of the little mountain stream the artist has employed white pastel chalk which lies on the paper in intact powdered form. A fi ne column of smoke rises heavenwards from the chimney of a picturesque farmhouse. Dorner’s mastery of watercolour technique involves very fi ne craftsmanship. The dark gray of the smoke is a few shades deeper than that of the richly modulated grayish white of the imposing cloud formation in the sky, making it appear wonderfully transient and true to life. The outlines of a traveller drawn with faint pencil lines are barely visible on the little wooden bridge. Yet in the end Dorner dispensed with this genre-like staffage fi gure, thus enhancing the solitary mood of the scene. The result is a nature study of silent grandeur, timeless in its reverent rendering of the changing seasons.

Johann Jakob Dorner’s very long and eventful life was marked by many a succès d’estime, but also by many personal misfortunes. His was a very precocious talent. By the age of six he was receiving artistic instruction from his father, Johann Jakob the Elder (1741–1813). From 1796 onwards, after completing his schooling, he devoted himself entirely to landscape painting. On study trips through Bavaria, Austria, France and Italy he honed his skills in this fi eld, his development being crucially influenced by the study of Claude Lorrain and the 17th century Dutch masters. By 1803 Dorner was active in Munich as a landscape painter, draughtsman and printmaker, being appointed Inspector of the Gallery there in 1808. His artistic activities were interrupted in 1818 by an eye disease that was not cured until 1822. There began a second creative period which, however, was impaired by another attack of amaurosis that caused permanent damage to Dorner’s sight. Fate struck the artist another blow in 1843, when he suffered a stroke that paralysed one side of his body, causing him to give up his post at the Bavarian art gallery. Clearly Dorner had a strong constitution and a stubborn determination to survive, for he again succeeded in recovering from this malady and worked as an artist until his death in 1852. Particularly in his late work Dorner managed to shake off the influence of the idealistic landscape tradition of Claude Lorrain, turning to a more spontaneous observation of nature, which in its graphic freshness and subtle capturing of light and atmosphere is reminiscent of the works of his great fellow-painter Johann Georg von Dillis.

From the Johann Nepomuk Seiler Collection. On the original, contemporary collector’s mount.

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