In the Wild Kingdom of Nature.
Pictures by Heinrich Theodor Wehle from German Museums
The exhibition in the Hall of Twelve Columns of the New Hermitage which features 63 graphic works by the painter and sketcher Heinrich Theodor Wehle from the Sorb Museum and the Municipal Museum in Bautsen, Kunsthalle in Hamburg and private collections from Dessau and Erfurt.
Heinrich Theodor Wehle was born in 1778 in Upper Luzhitza. (Upper and Lower Luzhitza is inhabited by the Luzhitz people, and Luzhitz Serbs, Sorbs (Ger. Sorben, Upper Luzh. Serbja), the last remaining Slavic ethnic group in Germany, whose members speak in a Slavonic language.) Following his training in Gorlitz Drawing School, he entered the Academy of Painting in Dresden, where the most important teacher for him was the landscape artist, sketcher and engraver Johann Christian Klengel. Klengel recommended to his students that they should use as an example the works of the French painter and creator of idyllic landscapes Claude Lorrain and Jacob van Ruisdael, a Dutch master who depicted on his canvases the full drama of natural occurrences. The influence of these two artists can be clearly followed through Wehle's creativity.
The Calcographical Society in Dessau played an important role in Heinrich Theodor Wehle's life; it commissioned Wehle to sketch the outskirts of the city. In 1800-1801 two series of paintings were published under the titles of The Depths of the Forest and Park Views.
In 1801 at the invitation of Count August Shuazel-Guffe, the director of the St. Petersburg Academy of Painting, Wehle arrived in St. Petersburg. In the winter of 1801-1802 the artist spent his time in the court of Emperor Alexander I.
In his capacity as a topographer and cartographer Wehle participated in the Russian geological expedition to Georgia and became the first western European master to sketch views from the Caucasus in 1802 and 1803.
The impressions of the natural beauty of the wilderness, from the eastern colours and exotic gardens in Tbilisi, which he gathered during his journeys gave birth to a new, dynamic style in Wehle’s work. In the Caucasus he achieved the highest level in his distinctive drawings, striking in their admiration of nature's power.
Wells drawn in mountain landscapes, bridges, monuments, sepulchres, ruined monasteries, and towers reflect the perceptions of the artists of the realities at the start of the 19th century. It is specifically by the creation of human hands, through architectural compositions that it is possible to express the inherent, idyllic relations of romanticism with nature.
In 1803 the expedition arrived in Armenia whence the artist returned to his homeland, traveling through Italy. In 1805 Wehle died at the age of 26.
Heinrich Theodor Wehle belongs to that extremely important group of prophets of German romanticism. The artist’s great gift was appreciated by his famous contemporary, the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who observed that: “being granted the talent to hope, he had been happily granted an artistic view of the world”.
The exhibition and the publication of a catalogue is part of a joint project between the State Hermitage Museum, the Sorb Museum and the Municipal Museum in Bautzen, the Sorb National Foundation in Bautzen under the auspices of the minister-president for Saxony, Professor George Milbradt.