Paul Weber • Mountain Torrent in the Catskills
Oil on paper on cardboard
28 : 38 cm
Signed lower left
1823 Darmstadt - 1916 Munich
The landscapist Paul Weber led a restless life marked by long journeys and frequent moves. He trained as a painter in Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Munich and Antwerp and moved to the United States in 1849. After settling in Hamilton, Ohio, he moved to Philadelphia in 1854, where he taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Some of his pupils in the landscape painting class were later associated with the Hudson River School.
Despite a flourishing career in the United States as a teacher and independent painter, Weber decided to return to Germany in 1861. He had been offered a position as a private teacher at the court of the Grand Duke of Hesse in Darmstadt. From Darmstadt, he undertook frequent trips to Barbizon, a small village south of Paris on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Since the 1830s, large numbers of French artists had gathered to work here en plein air. The so-called ‘Barbizon school’ was not a closed artists’ group but an informal school or colony. It attracted landscape painters from all over Europe seeking to escape the idealistic constraints of classical landscape painting – a discipline then taught at almost all European academies – by painting directly from nature.
Many of the ideas Weber adopted in his painting had their roots in the work of the Barbizon school. Like many of the landscapists of his generation he saw the radical transformation of nature through industrialisation as a threat, and dispensed with any reference to it in his own imagery. Instead, his paintings convey an idealised portrayal of the rural scene. The countryside appears as an untouched idyll, an environment in which humans live in harmony with the natural world. What to the modern viewer may seem anachronistic is the expression of a growing nostalgia for an intact environment. In this way, Weber captured the spirit of the age.
Weber moved from Darmstadt to Munich in 1872. As a landscapist, he saw the exhibition life of the burgeoning cultural and artistic capital, coupled with the virtually untainted natural beauty of the surrounding countryside, as the perfect prerequisites for his future career. He was a regular contributor to the annual international exhibitions at the Munich Glaspalast. The noted Munich dealership Heinemann staged a memorial exhibition in his honour in 1917 – a sure sign that his fame persisted to the end of his life.
Unknown photographer: Paul Weber