Leopold Stephan (Austrian, 1826-1890). Large oil on canvas painting depicting a striking European landscape, backlit by the sunrise. Signed and dated 1856 along the lower left.
Leopold Stephan was born in Prague in 1826. He began his art education in Prague, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. He studied many genres of painting there, notably figural painting and landscapes. It was his classes in landscape painting with noted German painter Max Haushofer (1845-1847), however, that most caught his interest. Haushofer believed strongly in painting from nature, and often brought his students to paint outside in a variety of natural spaces, even taking them on trips to the artistsÃ colony at Frauenchiemsee in his native Bavaria.
Having discovered a passion for landscape painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Stephan pursued further training in landscape painting at the Dusseldorf School with Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910). AchenbachÃs Romantic style clearly influenced StephanÃs work; the present work shows echoes of the dramatic skies that are the hallmark of AchenbachÃs work. While in Germany, Stephan visited Munich and Tyrol, drinking in the idyllic German scenery that inspired much of his work.
Stephan traveled throughout Central Europe during his career. He visited many parts of what is now the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany, drawing inspiration for his depictions of charming rural villages and dramatic, wind-swept scenery. Along with his travels, he was active in the art scene at home in Prague. He was a member of several artistic societies, including the still-active UmeleckÂ· Beseda, and taught many students at his Prague studio. These students included eminent Czech artist Leo (Lev) Lerch (1856-1892), best known for his dark, mystical takes on traditional subject matter.
The present work is a lovely example of StephanÃs signature blending of the tranquility and power of nature. At the center of the scene, a mother and child walk back from an expedition to the forest. The basket atop the motherÃs head is overflowing with greenery; a dog jumping at their heels provides levity and motion to the scene. This tender scene of pastoral activity is dwarfed by the majesty of the nature around the figures. Enormous trees surge up in silhouette toward the quickening sky, mirrored by the immense rocky outcroppings that are bathed in red by the rising sun. The village the mother and sun are undoubtedly headed towards perches on a peninsula reaching out into the sea. Similarly to the family, though, the village is subsidiary to the rock formations surrounding it. It would almost be easy to miss any signs of human presence in this work; the sheer breathtaking presence of the landscape is something that overwhelms its human inhabitants. The light cast by the gentle sunrise smooths over everything in the scene, blending the humans in with the verdant landscape around them; the moment of dawn allows them to briefly, perhaps unnoticed, to participate in the power of nature.
Unframed; height: 34 in x width: 50 1/4 in. Framed; height: 45 in x width: 61 in.
The painting is in good condition overall. The painting has a thick, organic varnish layer that has slightly yellowed. There is craquelure throughout. Some scattered areas of inpainting along the sky, most notable along the upper left and to the lower right of the large cloud in the center of the composition. The canvas is loose and there is a stretcher bar mark along the upper quadrant. Some losses and wear to the ornate frame.
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