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Woodland Scene with Tree Roots on the Way to the Grindelwald Glacier. Pen and black ink and pencil on wove paper, affixed to an old mount at the top corners. 18.5 x 24.5 cm. Circa 1827–29. “auf dem Weg nach dem Grindelwaldgletscher” inscribed in pencil at the bottom left in the artist’s own hand.
After studying at the Academy of Art in Kassel, Johann Martin von Rohden travelled to Rome for the first time in 1795 at the age of seventeen. He settled in quickly and, as a landscape painter, came to play an important role in Roman artistic life in the first half of the 19th century. Like his German fellow artists, Rohden travelled through the Campagna around Rome and produced works comprising motifs from Tivoli, Subiaco, Albano and Lake Nemi. Apart from a few brief episodes in Kassel, Rohden, who died in 1868, lived his whole life in Rome, where he joined the circle around Joseph Anton Koch and Johann Christian Reinhart.
The artist crossed the Alps twice in the course of his travels between Germany and Italy: in 1827 after being appointed court painter in Kassel by Elector Wilhelm II of Hesse and again in 1829 on his return to his chosen home of Rome. The present evocative study of a wooded mountain landscape with bizarre tree roots probably arose during one of these two journeys. In the meticulously executed drawing Rohden combines pencil with pen and black ink, which enables him to effectively contrast the characteristic shapes of the roots in the foreground with the silhouettes of the trees. In its linear purism and the almost surreal alienation of the landscape the work is reminiscent of 16th century draughtsmen such as Wolf Huber, one of the leading representatives of the Danube School. The artist’s own inscription at the bottom left makes it possible to locate the landscape depicted to the vicinity of the Grindelwald Glacier in the Swiss canton of Bern. According to Hinrich Sieveking, the old mount to which the sheet is affixed was that used by Martin von Rohden.
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