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Copy after? Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-74)

Landscape with a River c. 1670-1760

Oil on oak panel | 24.6 x 36.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 401279

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  • Praised by Johann Joachim Winckelmann as the Raphael of landscape, Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich is remembered for his peculiar eclecticism. From the finesse of the Dutch Fijnschilders to the courtly glamour of French Rococo, Dietrich mastered a wide range of seventeenth and eighteenth-century painting styles. He was a populariser, producing paintings with the look of the old masters but at more affordable prices. Later, his work was disdained for its lack of creativity and by the late Nineteenth Century Dietrich was almost forgotten. But twentieth-century art history resurrected him as a talented artist, a product of the Eighteenth Century's growing fascination with the new discipline of art history and the vogue, set out in contemporary art theory, for basing one's art on past models.

    One of Dietrich's most sensitive homages is to the Dutch painter Adriaen van Ostade in his (Dietrich's) Itinerant Singers at the National Gallery in London. He was also particularly well suited to emulating the style of the candlelight masters, as is evident in Squirrel and the Peep-show at St. Petersburg. Above all, though, Dietrich was most prodigious when it came to Rembarandt. Indeed, at Dresden there are paintings dated in the 1630s that bear Rembrandt's signature and have since been attributed to Dietrich's hand.

    Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich was first taught by his father, Johann George Dietrich (1684-1752), Court painter in Weimar, and was then sent as an apprentice to the landscape painter Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752). In 1730 the prodigious young artist was appointed court painter to Frederick-Augustus I, Elector of Saxony. From 1734 to 1741 Dietrich travelled in Germany and possibly the Netherlands; on his return he was appointed court painter to Frederick Augustus II, Elector of Saxony who then sent him to Italy in 1743. After visiting Rome and Venice Dietrich returned to Saxony and in 1748 he was appointed inspector of Dresden's Gemäldegalerie. He is remembered both as a diverse and a prolific painter, with an oeuvre spanning c.2000 paintings of various genres and styles. After 1732 he signed his paintings with the name 'Dietricy'.

    Provenance

    First recorded in the Royal Collection during the reign of Queen Victoria

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on oak panel

    Measurements

    24.6 x 36.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    33.7 x 45.5 x 4.3 cm (frame, external)