1791 Schinznach, Aargau – Munich 1849
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Portrait of Carl Philipp Fohr 1818
after a drawing by CARL BARTH (1787 Eisfeld – Kassel 1853)
engraving on wove paper; sheet 270 x 189 mm (10 5/8 x 7 7/16 inches)
Thomas Graf (Lugt 2431a)
Unter Glas und Rahmen, Mainz 1993–94, no. 1
Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, London 1994, no. 120
The Enchanted World, Philadelphia 2017, no. 5
A superb impression in excellent, untreated condition with wide margins all round.
Annotated in pen and ink at lower right Amsler and in pencil on the verso amsler fc.
This portrait print was rightly celebrated early on and counts among the most probing depictions of a German Romantic artist. Carl Barth’s drawing was executed in 1817 and originally not intended to be transferred into a print (it is now in the museum at Heidelberg). Barth was himself a superb engraver but after the premature death of his close friend – Fohr had drowned while bathing in the Tiber on June 29, 1818 – he was too upset to undertake the task of creating this memorial portrait himself. Barth was present when Fohr died and, being a good swimmer, he had encouraged Fohr to plunge in too the more dangerous and turbulent parts of the river, making him directly responsible for his friend’s death.
The print was first exhibited with works by the other German artist in Rome in Palazzo Caffarelli in 1819 and according to Johann David Passavant it was also sold to erect a monument in honor of the deceased. Apart from these tragic biographical circumstances of its creation, the print was also recognized and praised for its “new manner.” Goethe owned an impression and Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote in a letter to his wife on July 30, 1819, that Goethe “praised extravagantly the exact technique of the engraving, but at the same time he found many deficiencies in it, and an underlying false mannerism in the drawing and handling.” It is the altdeutsche Manier (the old German manner), the orientation towards the engraving technique of Albrecht Dürer and his contemporaries that displeased Goethe. Wherever possible, Amsler avoided crosshatching and the swelling and tapering lines of the taille, giving his engraving more the appearance of an etching. Through this technique, however, Amsler succeeds in grasping the line work of Barth’s drawing in a highly convincing way.