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Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner

(1709 Kufstein – 1761 Augsburg)

After. The Four Elements. Four engravings. Circa 1745. Each approx. 29.7 x 19 cm. Berliner Ornamentstichkatalog 133, 1, 16; not in Nagler.

In the course of his career as an artist in Augsburg Baumgartner increasingly came to specialise in the production of model drawings for reproductive engravers which were subsequently issued by prominent local publishers. The large number of extant engravings after his designs is evidence of the great success the artist enjoyed with his complex, imaginative and often extremely sophisticated models. Baumgartner probably produced several hundred drawn models, including works on religious, mythological and allegorical themes, as well as calendar designs and illustrations for books. What is remarkable is that – in contrast to other local fellow artists such as Johann Georg Bergmüller and Gottfried Bernhard Göz – he never, with a single exception, worked as an engraver himself.

Around the mid-1740s Baumgartner produced seven mythological / allegorical series for the renowned publishing house of Johann Georg Hertel, including the present complete series on The Four Elements. This provides a vivid illustration of how rocaille ornamentation became the dominant stylistic feature
in Baumgartner’s formal idiom. With apparently effortless ease and using constantly changing, imaginative variations the artist combines the bizarre decorative borders with the personifications of the four elements to form an organic synthesis. The suite is rare and not included in Nagler’s list. Superb, harmonious impressions with the full paper margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in immaculate condition.

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