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Anton Radl

* 1774 – † 1852

Mountain Valley with Waterfall

Oil on canvas

Signed at bottom right: A. Radl

The exact spot where the water comes tumbling down off the mountain is as if singled out by sunlight. At the foot of the drop the water crashes onto rocks that the relentless torrent has prised apart from the massif. Half hidden from view behind a tall tree, the stream then becomes calmer before spilling over one last step, which like the crest of the fall is lit up by the sun. Seemingly unimpressed by this powerful natural spectacle, the oak leans towards the water that nourishes its roots, but at the same time threatens to topple it. Looking at the idyllic valley of the right middle ground, the somewhat forlorn staffage seems paltry compared to the peaks all around and the overpowering force of the watercourse in the foreground. Anton Radl’s arc of tension opens with the waterfall and then slowly discharges over the lush pastures of a seemingly peaceful mountain valley with a stream serenely flowing through it. The three young trees on the right mark the valley’s outer limit as well as adding density to the composition as a whole. In his grasp of landscape Radl is torn between the idealistic aspirations of the eighteenth century and the naturalism of the nineteenth. He combines the idealizing style of the Neoclassicists1 with realistic, in some cases veduta-like, scenes, and hence does not fit neatly into any of the usual art-historical categories. Even if he took as his model that “great teacher Nature, whom I often and eagerly sought out,”2 and saw the reality with his own eyes, his work was still clearly influenced by the tradition of representing nature as “beautiful” in the classical sense.3

  1. Radl’s contemporary, Jakob Philipp Hackert (1737 Prenzlau – 1807 Florence), who painted in the tradition of Poussin and Claude Lorraine is one example among many.

  2. Radl, quoted after Wilhelm Amandus Beer in “Anton Radl. Zum 50. Todestag (4. März 1902),” in Frankfurter Zeitung, 4 March 1902, 1st morning ed.

  3. Anton Radl 1774–1852: Maler und Kupferstecher, exh. cat. Museum Giersch, Frankfurt a. M. 2008, Petersberg 2008, p. 50.

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