Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (Haina 1751-1829 Eutin)
J. H. W. Tischbein stands as one of the precursors of German romanticism , at the crossing-place between the visual arts and literature, between Italy and Northern Europe.
Tischbein is best known today as the 'Goethe Tischbein', a nickname derived from his close friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the father of German Romanticism, with whom he travelled in Italy in 1786-7. The association between the two artists produced an icon of German Romanticism: Goethe in the Roman Campagna painted by Tischbein in 1787, and now in the Stddelsches Museum in Frankfurt; this celebrated image is now perhaps even better known through Andy Warhol's famous screenprint. The friendship of the two artists remained firm until Tischbein's death in 1829.
Many of the drawings in the sale relate to Goethe, or more generally respond to the influence of the German Romantic movement during the first years of the 19th Century, a movement for which Goethe was a major influence. In a break from the 18th Century 'Enlightenment', artists and intellectuals now stressed the importance of the emotional above the rational, an attitude that encouraged a subjective rather than an objective approach to the world about them. Central to this was a new and more personal engagement with Nature. Many of the landscapes in the sale are close in inspiration to those of Tischbein's near contemporary Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Particularly notable is their depiction of wide desolate landscapes, in which solitary trees or standing stones symbolise man's insignificance in the face of nature, an idea often found in Friedrich's paintings.
Other drawings relate more directly to Goethe. Most notable are the drawings connected to Goethe's poem cycle Wilhelm Tischbeins Idyllen, a collaborative work combining words and pictures which, according to Goethe's account of his time in Italy, the Italienische Reise, was first discussed by the two men on 20 November 1786. In 1819 Tischbein wrote to Goethe in Weimar suggesting they return to the project. Although Goethe did not reply immediately, Tischbein went ahead and made 44 paintings. Goethe eventually responded, and on 14 May 1821 Tischbein sent him a series of seventeen watercolours. Goethe composed verses for these seventeen drawings and returned the album to Tischbein. Unfortunately, by the time the remaining compositions arrived Goethe had moved on to other projects, and no further texts were written. The group of drawings to be offered on 22 January includes more than twenty watercolours and chalk drawings relating to this series of compositions.
The group as a whole is very diverse and reflects every aspect of Tischbein's graphic art, including portrait heads and life studies. Goethe, in his entry for 13 March 1787 in the Italienische Reise, mentions how skilled Tischbein was in executing figure drawings: 'This evening, immediately after supper, he painted some life-size heads. Tischbein has a great gift for sketching in pen and ink the figures of gods and heroes, large as life or larger. He dashes them off with a few strokes and then puts in the shadows with a broad brush, so that the head stands out in relief.' About one hundred of these are included in the sale.
The largest group of drawings, about two hundred, depict animals of all sorts: dogs, cats, ducks, sheep, lions, tigers, panthers, foxes, and herds of wild boar. Many of these strive to be 'portraits' of the animals with human expressions. They were probably done in connection with the series of engravings of Tjtes de differents animaux, begun in 1799, and inspired by Tischbein's friend the physiognomist Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801). Although his reputation is now in eclipse, Lavater was extremely influential throughout the first third of the 19th Century, not least for his theories relating an individual's character to his physical features. The group also includes a number of larger animal compositions such as The Fox brought before the assembly of animals, which illustrates Goethe's Reineke Fuchs published in 1793. Further compositions illustrate the Gdnsegeschichte, a long children's story on geese written by Tischbein in 1803, for which a manuscript text is included in the sale.
The collection also includes eleven albums containing a combination of watercolours with accompanying texts. In these the artist gave free rein to his inventive powers, characterised by such drawings as the Tiger leaping out of a lily, which comes close to William Blake in its visionary fantasy. This drawing is included in an album (of which two versions are included in the sale) depicting butterflies, rainbows and other almost hallucinatory scenes drawn with a very colourful brush. Most stunning, however, is the series of seven watercolours of heads of Classical heroes, drawn as part of a projected illustrated edition of Homer. The monumentality of these heads, with their exaggerated features and boldly inventive colouring, delivers a power of expression that prefigures Picasso portraits of his 'classical' period.
THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
The Great Cats: two tigers, a lion, a leopard, a cheetah, a lynx, an ocelot and a civet cat