Carl Gustav Carus(1789 - 1869)
Private Collection Sold at Van Ham 2012, Cologne Private Collection, Switzerland.
Bülck, Elisabeth, Carl Gustav Carus, sein Leben und sein Werk im Verhältnis zu Caspar David Friedrich und dessen anderen Schülern betrachtet. Innaugural Dissertation, Greifswald 1943.
Prause, Marianne, Carl Gustav Carus -Leben und Werk, Berlin 1968, no. 406.
A highly successful physician by profession, Carus is known to us for his landscape paintings and writings on aesthetics, including his influential Neun Briefe über Landscaftsmaleri (Nine Letters on Landscape Painting), which he completed in 1824 and published in 1831. Carus’ research and writing projects had enormous breadth, and included studies of animal anatomy, plant morphology and geology, to prescient mediations on the unconscious mind. In both the subjects and range of his empirical and philosophical investigations, Carus stands out as a great representative of the age of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. As is evident especially in his Neun Briefe, Carus aimed to unite the symbolic aspirations of German Romanticism with the empirically-grounded methods of modern science. He coined the term ‘Edlenbild’ in the Briefe to describe a landscape practice based on direct knowledge of the underlying structures of natural elements, topographies, and changing phenomenal effects.
The present painting, appears to be the work described in Marianne Prause’s raisonné (cited above) as number 406, location unknown, believed to have been previously with the Kunsthandlung Rusch in Dresden:
“Waldlandschaft/ Öl 40×29 cm. Besitzer unbekannt.
(Soll sich in der Kunsthandlung Rusch, Dresden befunden haben)
Wasserlauf im Vordergrund bildparallel. Am vorderen Uferstreifen rechts ein hoher
Baum bis zur oberen Bildgrenze, seine Krone beginnt erst im zweiten Drittel des
Bildes, rechts daneben kleinerer, breit entwickelter Laubbaum, die Krone vom
Bildrand überschnitten. Am jenseitigen Ufer dichter Laubwald, ein Baum der vom
Fuss an in drei starken Ästen aufwächst, besonders auffallend”. (Water in the foreground, parallel to the picture plane. At the front of the shoreline on the right a tall tree to the top of the edge of the image, its crown starting at the second third of the image, to the right, shorter, wide deciduous tree, the crown overlapping the edge of the image. On the farther bank, a dense, deciduous forest, a tree growing from its base in three strong trunks, particularly striking.)
The Rosental Park near Leipzig, the likely subject of this compelling work, was also the subject of Carus’s earliest recorded painting, Frühlingslandschaft im Rosental (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Prause 259). Like this early landscape and Carus’s subsequent depictions of the Rosental (Prause 260, 261), the present study pays particular attention to the reflections of light and trees on the surface of the water. Our work may date from the 1830s or later, when Carus’s landscapes had escaped the influence of his original mentor (and friend), Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), and were informed by Carus’s growing interest in natural aesthetics, guided by the thought and writings of Goethe (1749-1832), with whom he correspondended frequently, Alexander von Humboldt 1769-1859), and the oil sketches of the Norwegian landscape painter, John Christian Dah. (1788-1857).
The inscription on the verso (transcribed above) signed by Carus’s great grandson, F. Rietschel, in Dresden on the 18th of May, 1923, attests to the work’s authenticity.