oil on paper attached to linen. 10 1/4 x 13 1/8" (26 x 33.5 cm). placed and dated l/l: Zillenthal 2. Sept. 1843.
Alexander Calame was the leading figure of Swiss landscape painting which featured the Alps, the science and culture of which had become of interest with the Enlightenment. Rather than being perceived as a hostile environment and barrier to Italy, the enormous mountain chain came to be seen as bucolic and picturesque.1
It has been said that in Calame's work, solitude amongst an inhospitable nature is a transcendental theme. But in the present work, one sees something quite different. Here a lone hiker has chosen to be in this risky place and situation as he enjoys the challenge of finding his way through the rocky ledges above the torrents of a river in a remote landscape. Often Calame depicts such places, as in a rushing, rocky riverscape entitled Die Giffre, dated 1834, nearly a decade before he painted the present work, but exhibiting the same technique and brushwork in the background and in the water flow.2 Also of note is the scratched out inscription in the left lower corner as it is very similar to that of ours in handwriting as well as naming the site and date, but not a signature.
Calame succeeded in attaining international fame primarily for his large landscapes during his short lifetime. He surpassed his teacher Diday and also had a following, painters such as Steffan, Topffer, Schiess, Wolf, Zund, for example. But none of their paintings, as far as I have seen, are as close to the present work as that of Calame.
Since 1816 part of Austria, the "Zitterthal," a valley in the Tirol, are still today a noted area for trekking, just as the gentlemen with walking stick and backpack was depicted doing in 1843. Today there are books imparting different routes one can take, hopefully less treacherous.
Alberto de Andres, Alpine Views, Alexandre Calame and the Swiss landscape, an exhibition at the Clark Art Institute, published by Yale U Press, ?
recently sold at Auktionhaus Stuker, May 20th, 2016, lot 02089. This work is also on paper and had come from the son (Arthur Calame) of the painter in 1922.