Even among his contemporaries, Carl Blechen (1798–1840) was regarded as an exceptional artist. While his genius was admired, however, he also shocked the public with his explorations of new formal and thematic possibilities. Today he is internationally recognized as one of the leading artists of the 19th century. As a landscapist, Blechen was inspired by the subjects and themes of Romanticism, above all by the work of Caspar David Friedrich and Johan Christian Clausen Dahl. In terms of painterly style, however, he was far ahead of his time. Blechen’s art combined an early form of realistic perception with an innovative plein-air painting technique, which in this form was unparalleled in Europe at that time. With this particular combination he had neither direct artistic predecessors nor immediate successors.
From 1822 onwards, during an artistic career that lasted only around 15 years, Blechen created a unique body of work that can be compared to the art of William Turner. The high point of Blechen’s oeuvre is reached in the works made during his travels around Italy in 1828/29. In this exhibition, the Hamburger Kunsthalle presents the central piece from this Italian journey, which is also one of the most important works in Blechen’s entire output – the Amalfi sketchbook. It contains the artist’s impressions of a 10-day walking tour along the Amalfi Coast in May 1829, recorded in pencil, sepia and watercolour on 66 large-format sheets. Blechen made a large number of landscape drawings around the hilltop villages of Amalfi, Ravello, Minuto and Scala, and also in the Mill Valley (Valle dei Mulini) behind Amalfi. Although rapidly executed, these sketches nevertheless capture the moment with impressive precision. Rather than produce the veduta-style images that were fashionable at the time, Blechen based his drawings upon his direct sensory experience and focused on manifestations of light, shadow and atmosphere. Viewed in their entirety, the sheets reveal the complexity and technical variety of Blechen’s sketchbook, his mastery of pencil, pen and brush technique and the artistic principles to which he adhered.
This exhibition has been organised by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin and the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Carl Blechen (1798-1840)
Bäume und Häuser , 1829
Carl Blechen (1789-1840)
Der schwarze Korporal, 1829
© Akademie der Künste, Berlin