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Josef Kriehuber

(1800–1876, Vienna)

Prater Landscape. Oil on cardboard. 35.7 x 44.5 cm. 1847.

The lithographer and portrait painter, Josef Kriehuber, was one of the most prominent artistic figures of the Biedermeier period in Vienna. He received drawing lessons from the age of seven and went on to study at the Vienna Academy from 1813– 18. Having begun working as a draughtsman and lithographer for a local art publisher, Kriehuber devoted himself from around 1825 to portrait lithography, at which he proved extremely successful. His technically brilliant portraits of prominent personalities in Viennese society – members of the higher nobility, musicians, painters, writers and academics – established his reputation as a portraitist. Kriehuber’s most creative period was between 1830 and 1845, when he turned his attention primarily to watercolour portraits, his clients including virtually the entire upper crust of Habsburg society. The hallmarks of Kriehuber’s portraiture are his delicacy of execution, worthy of a miniaturist, and his masterful psychological characterisation. During his scant leisure time, mostly during the summer months, the artist engaged in landscape painting by way of relaxation, as it were. The impressions he gathered during his travels through Austria, Northern Italy and Switzerland, above all what he witnessed at the Prater in Vienna, supplied him with the motifs for his very lifelike, precisely executed landscapes. From about the mid-1840s, possibly a little later, he exhibited these works with considerable success at the annual exhibitions of the Vienna Academy.

The present painting still has the original frame with a brass plate bearing the inscription: “Josef Kriehuber / erster Versuch in Oel 1847 / Prater Parthie”. Hence it might very well be one of the artist’s first landscape studies, which would give the work considerable documentary value. A very harmonious and visually striking composition, it has been executed in an intricate painting technique with subtle colouring that betrays the hand of the miniaturist. The empty foreground, enlivened by no more than a rapid preliminary drawing in black chalk, gives the painting the charm of the infinito. Verso with an adhesive label “Grundirte Cartons / W. Koller & Co. ... Silberne Medaille 1845”.

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