PIERRE HENRI TETAR VAN ELVEN

1828-31 Dutch 1908

Rock Avalanche at Ragaz in Graubunden

watercolor 91/2 x 137/8" (242 x 353 mm), signed l/r: P Tetar van Elven, inscribed by the artist l/l: Ragaz.

The very well-travelled Tetar was a prolific watercolorist and painter in oil of the landscapes and activities of the people he saw, from Northern Europe to Istanbul, from Italy to Africa. He belonged to a family of painters, one of whom ( Paul, his uncle) left his house in Delft with many artworks by the family intact to be maintained as a private museum.

The present watercolor was fortunately identified by the artist as being a landscape in Ragaz in the Swiss Alps which was part of the Austrian Empire until 1859 when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy. When exactly Tetar was there is not known to me. But it was likely before 1903 when the town became a canton of Switzerland.

Tetar likely was witness to the shocking sight of a rock slide whereby a large section of stone comes loose from the side of a mountain, cascading downwards, breaking into smaller pieces of stone and taking down with it everything in its path, spitting up debris and small stones, and creating a billowing dust-like a storm. The poor man fleeing from the falling debacle seems almost engulfed by it and reminds one of Poussin's depictions of a fleeing man such as in the painting Man Killed by a Snake, or in Landscape with a Storm now in Rouen.1


1

Musee des Beaux-Arts.