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Wilhelm von Kobell

(1766 Mannheim – 1855 Munich)

The Draughtsman. Etching on wove paper. 17.6 x 14.5 cm. (1846). Goedl-Roth 72.

The painter, draughtsman and etcher, Wilhelm von Kobell, was first trained to draw landscapes by his father, Ferdinand Kobell, before continuing his studies in the early 1780s at the Mann­heim Academy of Drawing, where he also became acquainted with the art of etching. In his early years as a painter and draughtsman Kobell was greatly influenced by 17th century Dutch landscape painters such as Philips Wouwerman and Nicolaes Berchem, whose works he had seen while still a young man in collections in Mannheim and Zweibrücken. Kobell also enhanced his skills by studying nature in situ. In 1792 Karl Theodor, Elector of Palatinate and Bavaria, appointed him court painter. A year later the artist moved to Munich, where he was made professor of landscape painting at the Academy in 1814. He was raised to the peerage in 1817 and made a member of the hereditary nobility in 1833.

The prints Kobell produced were mostly commissioned by the publisher, Domenico Artaria, in Mannheim and by Johann Friedrich Frauenholz in Munich. He created a total of sixty-eight aquatint prints as well as eighty outline etchings, almost all of which were based on pictures of his own invention, most of them intended for colouring. The present extremely rare print is one of the artist’s last etchings. In all probability it is a self-portrait showing Kobell in the company of a friend as he sketches a wide landscape studded with trees from the top of a hill. Kobell’s etching demonstrates his remarkable economy of means. The two figures stood on the hill and the wooded middle ground are portrayed with a few confident strokes, while a handful of delicate lines hint at the flat landscape in the background. Everything about the etching gives the impression of a moment Kobell might well have captured himself while drawing in the open air.

A superb, crisp and transparent impression with numerous wiping marks, especially in the sky. With full deckle edge top and right. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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