Revision and exploration : German landscape depiction and theory in the late 18th century
My thesis focuses on the work of German painters in Italy c.l770-1800, and addresses issues raised by their complex relationship with the 17th century Italianate landscape tradition. Jakob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807), Johann Christian Reinhart (1761-1847), and Joseph Anton Koch (1768- 1839) worked in Italy precisely because they considered themselves to be the inheritors of the 17th century landscape style of Claude, Dughet, Rosa, and Nicolas Poussin. But while the German paintings do resemble the earlier works, they also revise the 17th century programme of representing Ideal nature. They are more detailed and precise in their depiction of natural phenomena; they also represent natural events and sites not included in the traditional canon. Extrapolating from 18th century critical terminology, I have developed the term "particularity" to focus attention on this unprecedented attention to the details of nature. I argue that the late 18th century German landscapes revise the Italianate landscape tradition so that it embodies particularity, and that the impetus for this change comes from two contemporary sources: natural history -- especially the nascent sciences of geology and biology -- and art theory. My argument is divided into three sections. In the first, I establish the existence and visual characteristics of particularity first by contrasting 17th century versions of the famous cascades at Tivoli (by Claude, Dughet, and others) with depictions of the same site by late 18th century German artists, and second, by describing the new sites which were explored and depicted by Hackert, Reinhart, and Koch. In the third and final chapter of this section, I discuss in detail the relationship of landscape depiction and natural science in a specific case: the scientific landscape illustrations by Pietro Fabris for Sir William Hamilton's Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies (1776). The involvement of British, German and French landscape painters with discoveries in contemporary natural history is vividly exemplified by Hamilton's book. In the second section, I consider the features of German natural history and art theory c.1770-l800 which encouraged and shaped landscape painting. In two separate chapters I examine the ways in which Herder, Kant, and Goethe contributed significantly to each of these areas of thought. The relation between particular and universal, I argue, is fundamental to both natural history and art theory at this time, and the particular is emphasized in both disciplines. In the third section, I take up the implications for landscape depiction of this emphasis on particularity by focusing on specific contacts between German landscape artists and ideas from natural history and art theory.