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Jacob Philipp Hackert. Europe's Landscape Painter of Goethe Era at Klassik Stiftung Weimar
Jakob Philipp Hackert, Feuerwerk auf der Engelsburg in Rom, 1775, Gouache, 44,7 x 58,2 cm. ©Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

WEIMAR.- On the occasion of its theme-year, “Europe in Weimar 2008”, the Klassik Stiftung Weimar is showing the exhibition “Jakob Philipp Hackert, Europe’s Landscape Painter of the Goethe Era” through November 2, 2008.

The exhibition, which was jointly prepared by the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and the Hamburg Kunsthalle, includes some 80 paintings as well as 120 gouaches, water-colours and drawings. It is thus the most comprehensive Hackert retrospective ever shown. The works in the exhibition belong to the collection of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, which owns one of the largest Hackert collections, as well as works from the Hamburg Kunsthalle. International loans from Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Switzerland and from German collections provide a fascinating insight into Hackert’s complete oeuvre.

Jakob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807), one of the few German-speaking landscape painters of European importance of his time, worked in Berlin after having completed his studies, but apart from his sojourns in Sweden and France, he spent most of his life in Italy. There, he established himself as an internationally demanded artist who influenced the portrayal of Mediterranean landscapes well into the 19th century. His subjects included vedute (large-scale, detailed city and landscape panoramas), harbour scenes, coastal and river landscapes, parades and hunting scenes and, in particular, the campagna di Roma bathed in soft, atmospheric light and the picturesque areas in southern Italy and Sicily. Beginning in Rome in 1769, he then went on to Naples to work as a court painter for King Ferdinand IV in 1786. Travellers visiting Italy from throughout the world, among them German artists, English noblemen and prominent princely commissioners such as the family of the Russian Zar, spread his works throughout all of Europe. Finally, the biography Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in 1811 cemented his reputation as an outstanding landscape painter of the 18th century.

Hackert’s life was influenced by the feudal brilliance of the Ancien Régime that was defeated by the invasion of Naples by French revolutionary troops in 1799. However already at that time, he personified the stature of an extremely efficient businessman who oriented himself to the art market and was largely able to act independently of the hierarchies of the court, and thus anticipating modern positions of the 19th century.

On the one hand, his pictures were determined by his meticulous interest in reproducing realistic details in nature, on the other hand, he was known as an important pioneer and representative of the classical understanding of art, because of his ideally composed landscapes enriched with historicising accessories or antique locations. Hackert’s oeuvre stands on the threshold to the situation of change around 1800, a turning point for landscape painting.

Hackert’s composition patterns in “grand style” with clear borders and the tension and harmony visible in the distribution of the emphases would have been unthinkable had it not been for the undisputed authorities of older tradition such as Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and Gaspart Dughet. With his topographically exact pieces of scenery and the precise descriptions of details observed in nature, Hackert broke through the criteria of the contemporary, strictly idealising understanding of art at the time, and thus offered a starting-point for artists of the next generation. His interest in spectacular objects in nature, in waterfalls, volcano eruptions and mountain gorges, found a logical continuation in the following century in the alliance of landscape painting and natural sciences and more refined observation of geological and atmospheric phenomena. In a special way, this retrospective points out Hackert’s outstanding and forwards-striving position within European landscape painting around 1800.

The Klassik Stiftung offers a comprehensive supporting programme with guided tours, lectures, readings and special offerings for children and youths.

A richly illustrated catalogue was published to accompany the exhibitions in Weimar and Hamburg, which is a standard book on Hackert’s life and work.

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