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View of the Castle Ruins at Rauheneck near Vienna. Watercolour. 15 x 22 cm. Signed: “ThoEnder”. Circa 1825–30.
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Thomas Ender, an etcher and landscape painter, was trained at the Vienna Academy, where he received an award for his landscape drawings in 1810. His approach to landscape was modelled on that of such illustrious predecessors as Claude Lorrain and Jacob van Ruisdael, but he also engaged in extensive studies of nature, which he doggedly pursued during his walking tours through the Austrian Alps. An enterprising and industrious artist, Ender enjoyed the protection of Archduke Johann and Prince Metternich. Having taken part in an Austrian expedition to Brazil in the spring of 1817, he travelled with Metternich to Rome in 1819 and spent four years in Italy. Other journeys later took him to France, Southern Russia and the Orient.
Ender’s landscapes are distinguished by their faithfulness to reality, technical prowess and sensitivity in capturing light effects. This exquisite, pictorially composed landscape dates to the artist’s early period, a characteristic feature of which is the light, refined and richly modulated colouring. The romantic mood of the setting is wonderfully enhanced by the delicate rendering of the park-like landscape and the mild, radiant sunlight. The graveyard with graves and a few crosses in the foreground enable the artist to introduce the theme of transience in a discreet, almost incidental manner. Slightly off-centre from the beholder’s vantage point stands a monument comprising the statue of a woman seen from behind leaning against a pedestal with an urn. The grass and the fallen leaves of autumn are depicted in light, gentle tones; tiny spots of blue highlighting the occasional wild flowers bring a touch of freshness to the colouring. While the artist is meticulous in the depiction of intricate details, he concentrates for the most part on reproducing the subdued autumnal light. The picturesque rocks on the horizon are topped by the silhouette of the castle ruins at Rauheneck. Here again, topographical precision appears secondary to capturing the light and atmosphere in paint. This small yet light and airy watercolour thus has all the attributes of a sovereign work of art.