In Pursuit of Geological Motifs – Landscape painting in Dresden and Düsseldorf 1780–1860

Landscape painting enjoyed an international reputation at the art academies both in Dresden and Düsseldorf especially during the first half of the nineteenth century.[1] It had already achieved a significant position in Dresden at the beginning of the century where the academy also attracted students outside German speaking countries, for instance from Norway, but its eminence declined towards mid-century.[2] In Düsseldorf, the status of landscape painting started to rise when Wilhelm von Schadow (1788–1862) was appointed the director of the academy in 1826.[3] Von Schadow’s favourable attitude towards landscape painting was manifested in two major actions: Soon after his arrival, von Schadow established a class for landscape painting, and in 1836 he appointed Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807–1863) as the professor for landscape painting. Schirmer introduced open-air painting and stressed the importance of making studies after nature. In comparison, landscape painting had a minor role at the academies in Berlin and Munich during the first half of the century – apart from a few exceptions, such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841), Carl Blechen (1798–1840) and Carl Rottmann (1797–1850).[4]  However, the significance of landscape painting in Berlin and Munich started to rise in the mid-19th century.[5]

During the first half of the nineteenth century, German landscape art, whether practised in Dresden or Düsseldorf, has been characterized as diverse and fragmented. It was typical that landscape themes and styles varied widely. When reviewing German landscape art of this time, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the term Romanticism and, in the same context, on the depiction of mood. The artworks have been regarded as expressions of the inner world of the artists, and their relation to Romantic poetry has been discussed. Apart from this, the concept of fragment, one of the key terms of German Romanticism, appears very often in the discourse, and its different meanings have been covered.[6]

This paper discusses the relationship between geology and landscape painting in Dresden and Düsseldorf ca. 1780−1860. The focus is on the landscape north of the Alps; therefore, artworks depicting Italy and the ideal or classical modes will not be discussed as they constitute a different group. As has been convincingly shown, German landscape painting, just like poetry, carries references to geology and geography and their developments in the nineteenth century. This issue has been studied more widely concerning landscape painting in Dresden from the turn and the first decades of the century, whereas later events in Düsseldorf less.[7]  Likewise, the connection between Dresden’s and Düsseldorf’s geological interest in arts has attracted little attention.  In this discourse, however, in order to obtain an overlook, it is necessary to discuss the developments in Dresden at the turn of the century first since it provides background for later events. First, I outline major advances in geology at the beginning of the nineteenth century. After that I take a closer look into Alexander von Humboldt’s (1769−1859) role.  When talking about German arts, a few words have to be said about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749−1832). Two other important figures from this period are Carl Gustav Carus (1789−1869), a physician, a naturalist, an amateur artist and a theoretician of landscape painting who acted mostly in Dresden, and Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807–1863), professor for landscape painting both in Düsseldorf and in Karlsruhe.  Finally, I use the valley of Neandertal as an example of this geological interest.

The temporal scope of this paper is determined by four factors: First, the developments in natural sciences from the end of the eighteenth through the beginning of the nineteenth century led to the separation of geology and geography as two distinctive disciplines. This coincides with the emergence of landscape painting in Dresden. Secondly, the year 1859 witnessed the death of two major German naturalists: Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Ritter (1779–1859), as well as the publication of Charles Darwin’s (1809−1882) Origin of the Species which converted the world to evolutionism. In addition, Wilhelm von Schadow resigned from the academy in the same year. His resignation is said to have started the slow decline of the academy.[8]

Today, we are inclined to consign art and science to separate epistemologies, whereas a different relationship between art and science prevailed in the nineteenth century. This trend can be seen, for example, in landscape painting from Germany, England and the United States. Geology and landscape painting were closely allied in the United States, especially between 1825 and 1875, and, in fact, landscape painters and geologists stood on common ground where a close study and observation of nature constituted an essential part of their work.[9] Artists were not only caught up by the geological enthusiasm of the time, but they also participated in geological expeditions, and their task, apart from artistic work, was to document and illustrate the findings of naturalists.[10] In addition, the artworks served the purposes of other social endeavours of the time, for instance, nationalism, nation-building, as well as tourism.[11]

When talking about geology as an independent discipline in the modern sense, it did not exist yet because the gradual separation of geography and geology took place during the nineteenth century. As to geography, it had been, more or less, used in describing the earth listing and classifying its physical objects and phenomena up to 1800; thus, we talk about descriptive geography. Geology, on the other hand, had been concerned with collecting items, for example, for private purposes in mineral and curiosity cabinets. Nevertheless, people started to think about the earth and its relationship to its human inhabitants in a new way around 1800. This development shows, first of all, in landscape painting in Dresden at the beginning of the century, and after that it is reflected in landscape painting in Düsseldorf.

1. Rabenstein, Neandertal, in summer 2012. Photo: Anne-Maria Pennonen.

From the biblical flood to volcanic activity

The nineteenth century is regarded as the heroic age of science as this was the time when the outline of the earth’s history was drawn. The earth’s age expanded from the biblical timescale of a few thousand years, as told in the book of Genesis, to several billions of years.[12] The English concept of ‘scientist’[13] was launched in 1840 by the English scientist and philosopher William Whewell  (1794-1866). Scientists started to organize and establish different societies in order to promote the status of science. They emphasized human reasoning and wanted to get rid of superstition. According to the British Historian of Science, Peter J. Bowler, science supported a materialistic notion of nature, which also served the needs and purposes of industrialization.[14] One of the reasons for geology to develop as a specific science was industrialization, and especially mining industry. Hence, geology blossomed as one of the most popular sciences, especially in the United States, and it appealed not only due to economic reasons, but also recreational, intellectual, nationalistic and religious reasons.[15] The same reasons seem to apply to its popularity in Europe.

There were, however, other trends at the time of industrialization, such as Romanticism, which abandoned the commercial and materialistic approach, and emphasized the spiritual aspect of nature and the importance of the human mind. According to Romantic thinking, the idea of nature was not only a result of our sensations of the outer world, but also of how our mind tries to understand these sensations.[16] Along with Romanticism, there existed Naturphilosophie, a Romantic philosophy of nature, whose followers believed in the fundamental unity of nature. They thought that instead of studying separate objects one should conceive the various phenomena and powers of nature as different manifestations of a single underlying and all-embracing cause.[17] Religion was another important factor which greatly impacted artists’ as well as naturalists’ idea of nature. Although many geologists, including Charles Darwin, were trying to liberate geology from the biblical timescale and from the creation story as stated in the book of Genesis, many artists held onto conservative geology which evidenced that God’s shaping hand could be found in the fabric of the earth.[18]

Before the foregoing developments, there existed a battle between two competing hypotheses on how the earth’s surface was formed in the eighteenth century:  Neptunism and Plutonism (or Vulcanism). Prior to 1770, the earth was considered static and fairly young. The German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750−1817), who was teaching at the Bergakademie, the mining school in Freiberg, Saxony, supported Neptunism which asserted that the earth’s was originally covered by water, and its crust had been formed in stages out of a primordial ocean with each stage represented by a distinct rock formation. Neptunism was supported by so called catastrophists many of whom believed that the Flood in the Bible was a geological fact which could be proved. In the course of the nineteenth century, Neptunism, however, was replaced by Vulcanism (or Plutonism) as a dominant intellectual theory.  According to Vulcanism, the earth was formed by fire from volcanic activity.  In 1830, the English geologist Charles Lyell (1797−1875) introduced the concept of nature’s uniformity; according to his theory, the surface of the earth was in constant transformation, and the supporters of this theory were called uniformitarians. Lyell’s ideas changed the direction of geology, but the German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt gave his ideas common currency. As a consequence, by 1840 the understanding of the earth and its history expanded almost beyond imaginable by 1840, and the most important concept discussed at mid-19th century was geological time.[19]

Alexander von Humboldt did not only describe nature and the earth, but emphasized, along with Goethe, the experience of nature. Thus, he stated that nature had to be felt, and the guiding principle for Humboldt’s study of nature was Totaleindruck, which meant the total impression, or more precisely, viewing nature as a whole. [20] Humboldt also adopted the concept of ‘total impression of landscape’ and the ‘organic wholeness of landscape’ from Goethe. He explained natural phenomena without religious dogma, not as God’s creation, which was common then, reverting to empirical science.[21] Interestingly, Humboldt’s total impression of landscape could not be divided into a subject and an object. Morevover, we can say that Humboldt introduced landscape aesthetics into science. He did not approach nature from a scientific point of view only as he was convinced that landscape poetry and landscape painting were important when studying nature. Humboldt also combined the empirical observation of the topographic features of the earth, which Werner called ‘geognosy’ − an older term for geology − with an artistic depiction of the landscape. The main concept Landschaft, landscape, referred not only to a concrete area, but also to the picture of the area obtained through observation. Humboldt proclaimed a new science in which the study of relationships replaced pure description, and he also regarded an artist’s trial to express the total impression of landscape as a guideline for a scientist who tries to comprehend the variety of natural relationships contained in landscape.[22]

Additionally, Carl Ritter, Humboldt’s friend, colleague and a professor at Berlin University, challenged natural scientists to enrich their detailed observations of nature by considering the whole instead of parts. In 1859, when both Humboldt and his colleague Ritter died, big changes took place in geography and geology. Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species starting a new era in geology. Humboldt’s idea of holistic landscape observation was abandoned, and his rich labours were overshadowed by Darwin.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – an amateur naturalist studying mountains

At the end of the eighteenth century, the attitude towards mountains changed from mostly being regarded as laborious to cross obstacles, as well as representing something frightening and awe-inspiring to acquiring new qualities, such as sublime, beautiful and picturesque. The sublime was connected to having an attractive experience which evoked strong emotions in the spectator when facing the awesome forces of nature. Nonetheless, in order to be an attractive experience, the spectator needed to be reassured that he or she was not in mortal danger.[23]  After all, it was not only the aesthetic qualities of mountains, which stimulated interest, but also the ever-growing interest in nature study and geology. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reflects the changing interest in the mountains. Goethe, who represents a ‘Jack of all trades’ of his time due to his large variety of interests and pursuits, was not a naturalist − a scientist in the modern sense – but he took great interest in natural history of the time, and in his writings he dealt with meteorology, botany but also geography and geology. Both in his city residence and in his garden house in Weimar,[24]  he possessed a collection of stones, a mineral cabinet, which demonstrates his great interest in geology.

Goethe combines his different fields of interest in the description of the mountains he had seen in his travel diary, Italian Journey (Italienische Reise), which tells about his Grand Tour to Italy (1787−1788).[25] On this tour, Goethe travelled through the Alps, and he describes the colours, the forms and structure of the mountains as well as different kinds of rocks he saw.[26]  Later on his trip in Italy, Goethe was fascinated by volcanoes and the emergence of lava.[27] However, he does not only talk about the climate, the atmosphere or the humidity in the context of mountains, but also pays attention to the flora using the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné’s (1707−1778) terminology. Here his attention is caught by the same fact as Alexander von Humboldt’s (1769−1859) as he talks about the influence of the height on the diversity of plants on the mountains.[28] The Grand Tour did not influence his poetry right away, but it widened his views on natural sciences which can be noted in several writings.[29] For instance, he wrote about mineralogy and geology, and compared the ideas of Neptunism and Vulcanism to the emergence of basalt.[30] In Faust, he even had Mephistopheles and Faust discuss the emergence of the earth where they took a stand for or against Neptunism and Vulcanism.[31] In addition, he took great in interest in the nature of granite and described its varying features.[32] It is also noteworthy that, after his trip, Goethe visited A. G. Werner at Freiberg on 16 September 1789.[33]   Goethe’s interest in geography and geology reflected also on his poetry, and a new poetic discourse on landscape emerged at the turn of the century.[34] The same trend can be recognized in landscape painting where a new approach to landscape was introduced through geology:  artists started to depict not only mountains, but also smaller details, such as boulders, stones and rock formations. Numerous artworks depicting topographic formations of the earth’s crust can be connected with this trend.

Dresden circle and Carl Gustav Carus

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Dresden was staged as the cultural scene for German Romanticism, and the city attracted many artists, poets, naturalists and philosophers. An important meeting point for their social gatherings was the literary and musical salon of the German jurist Christian Gottfried Körner (1756−1831). Körner’s salon was visited by most prominent visitors of the time: there were, for instance, Friedrich Schiller (1759−1805), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756−1791), Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772−1801), aka Novalis , August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767−1845) and his brother Friedrich Schlegel (1772−1829), Heinrich von  Kleist (1777–1811). From my point of view, however, the most interesting visitors were Goethe, the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767−1835) as well as the Norwegian-born naturalist and philosopher Henrik Steffens (1773−1845).[35] On account of the many-faceted visitor’s list of Körner’s salon, one can assume that there existed lively interaction between arts and sciences including geology.  Further, Körner’s son, Theodor, studied at the Bergakademie in Freiberg 1808−1810, and the family possessed some of A. G. Werner’s works as well as a small mineral cabinet.[36]

In 1814, Carl Gustav Carus arrived in Dresden. Carus provides an excellent example of a person dealing with both science and art; therefore, he could be regarded as a link between science and art, and more precisely, between science and landscape painting. Apart from his other jobs and activities, Carus was also a scientific illustrator who used drawing as an aid to his medical and scientific research and publication. In his later writings, Carus predicted a great future for landscape painting by combining art with science.[37] He was Caspar David Friedrich’s friend (1774−1840), and Friedrich instructed Carus in landscape painting. As a consequence, Carus painted several landscapes in the spirit of Friedrich between 1817−1827, such as Osterspazierganz (1822) and Blick vom Montanvert auf die Montblanc-Gruppe (1822−1824).[38] However, Carus became famous for his Nine Letters on Landscape Painting (Neun Briefe über Landschaftsmalerei), which he wrote in the years 1815–1824, exploring the aims of landscape painting. The early letters 1–5 have been interpreted as reflecting Friedrich’s influence and his views on art. And yet, the sixth letter took a turn since Carus had read Goethe’s essay and poem on cloud forms, and they set his ideas about landscape free.[39] In the eighth letter, Carus clearly listed what was wrong with the landscape painting of his time and emphasized the importance of ‘teaching laws that govern nature in its outward forms’.[40] His aesthetic approach to nature and landscape changed during the years 1821–1823, and, accordingly, the subjectivity of the first letters gave way to objective knowledge based on natural sciences.[41] Thus, he became aware of the importance of scientific laws even in seemingly random and wilful nature.

Carus sought for Goethe’s appreciation as a scientist, a theoretician of landscape painting and a painter. He had also reverted to Goethe’s physiognomic and morphologic method, the notion of Urphänomen, archetypel phenomenon, which was widely used around 1800.[42] According to this method, the whole was present in every part, and then again every part was connected to the whole. Apart from Goethe, Carus admired Alexander von Humboldt and especially Humboldt’s ability to make science understandable for the general public. Carus introduced a new purpose for landscape painting, which he called Erdleben-Bildkunst, earth-life painting, in which the artist’s eye had to be trained ‘to perceive nature in its divine, essential life and in its forms; for wherever the eye perceives clearly and purely the hand cannot help but follow and develop in skill’.[43] If the perceiver’s eye and the mind were not trained, nature seemed arbitrary and lawless. Thus, it was not possible to notice, for instance, the differences of outline between different species of trees.[44] Following Humboldt’s ideas of landscape painting, it was essential for Carus that young artists understood the connection between the forms of mountains and their structure, the causal relationship between the locality and its flora, the laws that governed plant growth, and the laws of atmospheric phenomena. Thereafter, they had to learn the mysteries of light and its operation in the genesis of colour. It was also fundamental that artists understood the inner life of the object apprehending  what they were drawing.[45]  In order to achieve all this, young artists should have discussed with naturalists and read such books as Humboldt’s Views of Nature (Ansichten der Natur) (1808).[46]

As to Carus’s relation to geology, he became a member of the Mineralogische Gesellschaft, mineralogical society, which was founded by A. G. Werner, and in 1816 he visited Werner at the Bergakademie in Freiberg, in the Erzgebirge. Although Carus appreciated Werner’s contributions to mineralogy, he found Werner’s Neptunism old-fashioned.[47] Instead, he was introduced to the new intellectual theory, Vulcanism, by Werner’s two former students and major naturalists; Leopold von Buch and Alexander von Humboldt.[48] Carus’s interest in geology is clearly visible in his early drawings and landscapes in which he studied carefully different mountain forms, such as Geognostic Landscape: Katzenköpfe near Zittau (1820).[49] This picture’s origin stemmed from the trip Carus made through Riesengebirge in 1820 following in Caspar David Friedrich’s footsteps. Friedrich had been wandering there with his colleague Georg Friedrich Kersting (1785–1847) some ten years earlier. On this trip, Carus made several studies of geological formations aiming at detailed depiction. If compared to Friedrich, there is an interesting difference between Carus ‘s and Friedrich’s usage of sketches and studies composed on these trips. When Friedrich painted his Morgen in Riesengebirge (1811) using several studies and sketches made on different trips, Carus composed his Geognostic Landscape: Katzenköpfe near Zittau (1820) using only a single drawing.[50] In his Letters on Landscape Painting (Landschaftsbriefen), Carus writes about the ‘physiognomy of mountain ranges’, the idea he acquired from the differences he saw between the two mountain forms: the ‘Plutonic elevations’ in the Böhmische Mittelgebirge and the ‘great, tranquil lines of the granite in Erzgebirge’.[51] In order to be able to depict the physiognomy of some mountain ranges, it was important for Carus to be familiar with the natural forces that lay behind the evolutionary process. Thus, he described landscape painting as history painting of the earth which he later called Erleben-Bildkunst.[52]

Between 1846 and 1856, Carus wrote about the Nine Letters on Landscape Painting in his memoirs stating how there was a curious blend of science and art, and he combined his thoughts with Friedrich Schelling’s concept of Weltseele, the world soul, which was a single, endless organic whole of the universe.[53] Although in Carus’s thinking science was superior to art, he sought an alliance of artistic skill and scientific knowledge when depicting nature; and yet, they were both manifestations of divinity since the artistic goal and the subject of landscape painting was to comprehend nature as the revelation of divinity, the language of God.[54] For him, a picture had to be felt, not invented – this carries connotations of Humboldt’s ideas who, along with Goethe, emphasized the experience of nature.

Naturwahrheit − Studying nature in Düsseldorf landscape painting

In the 1830s, Düsseldorf with its newly organised academy, der Köninglich Preuβische Akademie zu Düsseldorf, started to compete with Dresden in landscape painting. Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, appointed in 1833 as head of class for landscape painting at the academy and professor in 1836, introduced a new approach to landscape. In Germany, landscapists talked about Naturwahrheit, the truth of nature, and Schirmer emphasized the importance of making studies after nature using his studies as teaching material for students both in Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe.[55] Schirmer himself travelled a lot, not only in Germany, but also in France, Italy and Switzerland. Everywhere he composed studies after nature which depicted trees, plants, rocks, stones, waterfalls, streams. In his works, Schirmer showed interest towards geological details, too, a good example of which is provided by his studies of the chalkstone cliffs painted on the seashore at Etretat, Normandy, in 1836.[56]

In 1827, Schirmer founded the Landschaftliche Komponierverein, an association for composing landscapes, with his colleague Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880).[57] In the beginning, their aim was to tour the surrounding areas of Düsseldorf and make detailed and faithful studies of nature, and to compose drawings, Kompositionen, based on sketches and studies made after nature, and then to introduce these Kompositionen at the Landschaftliche Komponierverein every fortnight.[58] They made their first trip to Altenberg in Bergisches Land in the summer of 1827, but later they travelled farther down the river Rhine to more distant places in the mountain ranges of Eifel and Harz. Lessing, in particular, took great interest in geology, and he even used the geological writings and the geognostische Karten, geological maps, of Jacob Nöggerath while travelling in Vulkaneifel, the volcanic area of the Eifel.[59] Lessing made several sketches and studies on these trips,[60]  and he used the landscapes from Eifel as a background for his historical paintings, such as in Belagerung (Siege, 1848)[61]. As a matter of fact, Schirmer and Lessing started a real walking boom in the city, as younger artists began establishing similar associations generating numerous sketches and studies after nature following Schirmer’s and Lessing’s suit.[62] It was also important make sketches and studies after nature during Hans Gude’s (1825−1903) professorship at the academy in Düsseldorf (1854−1862), and later in Karlsruhe (1864−1880). The tradition continued in Düsseldorf in the 1870s as well, and several Finnish artists,[63] who studied in Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe, took their paint boxes and set out to study nature in the neighbourhood of Düsseldorf, and farther along the river Rhine, in Ahrtal, the valley of the river Ahr, or the mountain ranges of Harz and Eifel.

Although at the beginning of the nineteenth century Dresden and Düsseldorf belonged to different German speaking kingdoms, one can assume that artists in Düsseldorf were familiar, not only with Goethe’s, but also with Carus’s writings. For example, Carus published an article in Kunst-Blatt 18 in 1837[64]  praising the inspiring influence of the exhibition of the Düsseldorf School for the artistic life in Dresden highlighting landscapes in particular. In 1855, he also met Johann Wilhelm Schirmer in person in Dresden.[65] It is also noteworthy that Carus adopted the method of drawing Kompositionen with charcoal from Schirmer.[66]

Artistic expeditions to Neandertal

The valley of Neandertal (older spelling Neanderthal), or Gesteins or Hundsklipp, as it was also called before mid-19th century, is located some 13 km east of Düsseldorf, between the towns Erkrath and Mettman. (Fig. 1 and 2). The valley was originally a limestone gorge of which its rugged scenery, waterfalls and caves provided excellent opportunities for painting trips. It was, in fact, often compared with Via Mala in Switzerland. Neandertal was named after the priest and head master of the local Lateinschule, Joachim Neander (1650−1680), who went to compose lyrics for hymns in the valley in the seventeenth century. Already at the beginning of the nineteenth century, artists found their way to the surrounding areas of Neandertal to celebrate the spring. They gathered there with families and friends, and one of the popular places for their festivities was the cave Neanderhöhle.[67] Schirmer tells vividly in his Jugenderinnerungen, memoirs of the youth, about a party in 1826 arranged for artists in Neandertal.[68] At the academy in Düsseldorf, it was actually Schirmer and Lessing who found the valley first. After the establishment of their landscape painting association in 1827, Schirmer and Lessing frequently sought their way to the valley. Later as a teacher, Schirmer took his students from the academy to work and study there.

2. Neandertal, in summer 2012, Photo: Anne-Maria Pennonen.

One of the popular motifs in Neandertal was a rock called Rabenstein which is about 100 m high. Artists often depicted it from the same direction as Schirmer’s pencil drawing Rabenstein in Neandertal (1826−27)[69] with the river Düssel running at its foot. Using the same view but from the opposite direction, Werner Holmberg, the first prominent Finnish artist who went to study landscape painting in Düsseldorf in 1853, painted a watercolour in 1857, Autumnal landscape from the neighbourhood of Düsseldorf[70]. In the very same year, a group of Finnish and Norwegian artists made a trip to Gesteins on the first of April. There were, among others, Adolph Tidemand’s (1814−1876) and Hans Gude’s families, Morten Müller (1828−1911), Erik Bodom (1829−ca.1879), Werner Holmberg and Anna Glad (1832−1909).Their outing was, however, interrupted by a thunderstorm which rose from behind the cliffs. While watching and admiring this play of nature, Holmberg and Glad, who had parted from the rest of the group, forgot to flee and were saturated. After this outing, Holmberg is said to have painted a picture from memory on the following day and given it to Glad, whom he married in 1858.[71]

On account of the story before, I would like to suggest that this picture of Gesteins at the Finnish National Gallery could be, in fact, from that outing in the spring. This is in contrast with what Hanna Eggerath has said about Holmberg’s watercolour.[72] I also assume that the title of the work is later, obviously given at the museum as there is no reference to Neandertal. The colours, nonetheless, refer to another season, but as Holmberg painted the scene in the spring from memory, he could have changed them. And when looking at the sky, it corresponds to what was told about the weather during the outing, as it ended with rain. In addition to this, Holmberg spent the summer of 1857 in Finland, and returned to Düsseldorf only at the end of October. While back in Düsseldorf, he eagerly started working on his studies from Finland, and there is no reference to any trip to Gesteins at this time of year in his letters.[73] And yet, one cannot deny that he could have made another painting trip to Neandertal in the autumn.

In the case of Holmberg, this was not the first time he had visited Neandertal , since he had spent the summer of 1854 in Erkrath with two Norwegian artists, Sophus Jacobsen (1833−1912) and Peter Arbo (1831−1892), as well as the Danish artist Johannes Wilhelm Zillen (1824−1870). They stayed in an old mill in Erkrath and made painting trips in the surroundings on foot. It was also easy to reach Neandertal from Erkrath. There is a sketch, Forest landscape with a masonry bridge leading over a stream (ca. 1854) which Jacobsen presumably made during this stay at Erkrath, and it obviously depicts the eastern entrance to the valley.[74]  Also Hans Gude, Holmberg’s private teacher in Düsseldorf, painted studies of Gesteins, for instance Forest study (1842)[75]. In this view, one can detect the white cliffs of the gorge in the background. In one of Holmberg’s sketch books, there is a very similar view.[76]

Apart from Rabenstein, there were other types of forest landscapes from Neandertal which the artists were fond of depicting. They drew and painted stones and rocks amidst tree roots, as well as the river Düssel, or small streams cascading over and between smooth-surfaced stones as well as rocks forming small waterfalls and ponds on their way. Sometimes they composed a larger view as Caspar Scheuren’s (1810−1887) Forest landscape (1845−1848)[77], or concentrated on more focused details. There are several later variations of similar motif by Finnish artists, such as Berndt Lindholm’s  (1841−1914) Brook (1868)[78], Fanny Churberg’s (1845−1892) Finnish landscape (1879)[79], and Oskar Kleineh’s (1846−1919) Brook in forest[80].

Today it is not possible to grasp the original atmosphere of Neandertal as the valley looks quite different due to large-scale mining that took place there in the mid-19th century. By the year 1900, the valley was completely destroyed, and only after the Second World War was the mining stopped.[81] The deep gorge carved by the river Düssel between the limestone cliffs does not exist anymore, but, instead, there are more gently descending slopes covered mostly by beech trees. There are some photos in the valley which show the barren landscape after the mining. With the help of the artists’ depictions of the place, we can, nonetheless, imagine what it looked like in the first half of the nineteenth century. When talking about industrialization and its disadvantages, there is another aspect to this: thanks to the mining, the bones of the Neandertal man were discovered by some Italian mine workers in 1856. One can only wonder if this could have happened otherwise.

In conclusion

Landscape painting in Dresden and Düsseldorf was not based on the classical ideal only, where the painting represents the artist’s idea of the landscape according to this ideal. Parallel with this idealism, there was the artist’s work outdoors consisting of drawing and painting sketches as well as studies after nature.  Owing to this, a new kind of naturalism emerged. Also the changing interests and findings of the times was reflected in landscape painting, and the dominant role of religion started to give way to a more scientific approach in the mid-19th century.

The geological details in paintings do not act as a mere setting, but reflect the scientific ideas and findings of the time. The artworks are not to be looked at as pure scientific illustrations, but rather as artistic depictions of topographical and geological features which apply especially to the sketches and studies made after nature. At the same time, we must, however, bear in mind that artists worked together with scientists, for instance in the USA documenting landscapes. In general, there prevailed a similar contradiction between spiritual and materialistic values as today in the juxtaposition of picturesque and artistic landscape versus industrialization and mining. This is clearly apparent in the case of Neandertal.

Anne-Maria Pennonen, B. A. (Translation Studies); M. A. (Art History), is a doctoral student at Helsinki university, department of art history. She is writing her Ph. D. about landscape painting in Düsseldorf ca. 1850−1880, and its relation to the development of natural sciences, i.e. meteorology, geology, geography and botany. Apart from the developments in Germany, she is focusing on Finnish artists using Norwegian artists and their artworks as comparison material.


1. Börsch-Supan, Helmut 1988. Die Deutsche Malerei von Anton Graff bis Hans von Marées 17601870, Verlag C.H. Beck, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 173–174.
2. Malmanger, Magne 2009. Dresden och den tyska romantiken ur ett norskt perspektiv. In Caspar David Friedrich. Den besjälade naturen, 2. Oktober 2009–10 januari 2010. Stockholm: Nationionalmuseum, 83. Johan Christian Dahl (1788–1857) gave informal instruction in landscape painting at the academy in Dresden, and several Norwegians landscapists travelled to the city following his suit, for example Thomas Fearnley (1802–1842), Peder Balke (1804–1887) and Knud Baade (1808–1879).
3. Locher, Hubert 2005. Deutsche Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 68.
4. Ibid, 39. Blechen and Rottman were mostly concerned with Italian and Greek landscapes.
5. Börsch-Supan 1988, 319.
6. For this, see The Fragment. An Incomplete History. Edited by William Tronzo. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2009; Klessmann, Eckart 1991. Saksalainen romantiikka. In Kaipuu maisemaan.  Saksalaista romantiikkaa 1800−1840. Alles drängt zur Landschaft. Deutsche Romantik 1800−1840. Tampereen taidemuseo 3.7.−30.9.1991. Tampereen taidemuseon julkaisuja, 24; Lukkarinen, Ville 2008. Werner Holmberg ja fragmentin taide. In Hommage á Lauri Anttila. Edited by Hanna Johansson. Helsinki: Kuvataideakatemia, 16, 18.
7. For Dresden, see Mitchell, Timothy F. 1993. Art and Science in German Landscape Painting 1770–1840. Clarendon Press. Oxford; Tang, Chenxi 2008. The Geographical Imagination of Modernity. Geography, Literature, and Philosophy in German Romanticism. Stanford, California: Standford University Press; for Düsseldorf, see Pullin 2011.  In the case of Düsseldorf landscape painting, German scholars often mention artists’ interest in geology, but other aspects of landscape painting, such as idealism, history or religion, have been covered more thoroughly.
8. Ibid, 444.
9. Bedell, Rebecca 2001. The Anatomy of Nature. Geology & American Landscape Painting, 1825−1875. Princeton University Press, ix. Bedell has studied the artworks of Thomas Cole (1801−1848), Asher Durand (1796−1886), Frederich Church (1826−1900), John F. Kensett (1816−1872), William Stanley Haseltine (1835−1900) and Thomas Moran (1837−1926) and their relation to geology between 1825 and 1875.
10. Börsch-Supan 1988, 330–332.
11. Pullin, Ruth 2011. Eugene von Guérard: art, science and nature. In Eugene von Guérard. Nature revealed. National Gallery of Victoria, 14−27. Another excellent example of this kind cooperation is provided in Pullin’s study about the life and work of the Austrian artist Eugene von Guérard who went on expeditions and studied nature in his paintings in Germany, Italy and Australia.
12. Bowler, Peter J. & Morus, Iwan Rhys 2005. Making Modern Science. A Historical Survey.  Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 103.
13. People dealing with geology and geography were mostly natural philosophers and naturalists.
14. Bowler, Peter J. 1997 [1992]. Ympäristötieteiden historia. Juva: Art house, WSOY, 182; Bedell 2001, xi. Bedell states how, for instance, for the American landscapist Asher Durand nature studies constituted ‘an antidote to the hectic pace and materialistic tenor of his times’.
15. Bedell 2001, 3−4.
16. Bowler 1997 [1992], 182−183.
17. Bowler &Morus 2005, 83−84.
18. Ibid, 103; Bedell 2001, xi.
19. Bowler & Morus 2005, 108, 111–112, 120–121, 348–349.
20. Tang 2008, 83−84.
21. Bowler 1997 [1992], 192.
22. Granö, Olavi 1996. Tieteellisen maisemakäsityksen muodostuminen ja tulo Suomeen. In Näköalapaikalla. Aimo Reitalan juhlakirja. Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia  17 – Konsthistoriska studier 17. Edited by Anna Ruotsalainen. Helsinki: Taidehistorian seura, 47.
23. Andrews, Malcolm 1999. Landscape and Western Art. Oxford University Press, 134−135.
24. In both houses, the display of the mineral cabinets tells about their importance to the owner. The stones can easily be seen and shown to visitors, as they are placed on shelves which take up most of the room. Visit to Weimar on 18–19 June 2012.
25. Goethe von, Johann Wolfgang 2010 [1981, 1786]. Italienische Reise. Goethes Werke, Band II (Hamburger Ausgabe), Textkritisch durchgesehen von Erich Trunz, kommentiert von Herbert von Einem, München: Verlag C. H. Beck, 17.
26. Ibid, 20.
27. Nicolai, Heinz 1977 [1960]. Zeittafel zu Goethes Leben in naturwissenschaftlicher Hinsicht. In Schriften zur Naturwissenschaften. Stuttgart: Reclam, 280.
28. Ibid, 21.
29. Borchmeyer, Dieter 2005. Schnellkurs Goethe. Köln: Dumont Kunst und Literatur Verlag, 68.
30. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 1977 [1793]. Schriften zur Naturwissenschaften. Herausgegeben von Michael Böhler. Stuttgart: Reclam, 204−222.
31. Ibid, 222−223.
32. Ibid, 204−210, 220−222.
33. Nicolai, 1977 [1960], 281.
34. Tang 2008, 69.
35. Klieme, Günter & Neidhardt, Hans Joachim. Kügelgenhaus. Museum der Dresdener Romantik. Herausgegeben von den Museen der Stadt Dresden. München & Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 21, 24.
36. These are displayed in room 2 in the Kügelgenhaus in Dresden. Gerhard von Kügelgen (1772−1820), a German history painter who belonged to the Körner family’s closest circle of friends, lived also nearby Körner’s house. Nowadays, the Museum of Dresden Romanticism is located in this house where Kügelgen lived, and the belongings of the Körner family are also placed here. Visited on 22 June 2012.
37. Bätschmann, Oskar 2002. Carl Gustav Carus (1789−1869): Physician, Naturalist, Painter, and Theoretician of Landscape Painting. In Carl Gustav Carus: Nine Letters on Landscape Painting. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 8.
38. Klieme & Neidhardt 2008, 12.  For this, see also Kuhlmann-Hodick, Petra 2009. Vor-Zeichnungen? – Friedrichs Bedeutung für Carus als Zeichner. In Carl Gustav Carus. Wahrnehmung und Konstruktion. Interdisziplinäres Kolloquim 21. Bis 23. Mai 2008, Residenzschloss, Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden. Berlin & München: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 151−167.
39. Mitchell 1993, 168.
40. Carus, Carl Gustav 1815−1824. Nine Letters on Landscape Painting. Written in the Years 1815−1824, with a Letter from Goethe by Way of Introduction. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, Letter VIII, 124, 126.
41. Neidhardt, Hans Joachim 2009. Zur Ambivalenz des Atmosphärischen bei Carl Gustav Carus. In Carl Gustav Carus. Wahrnehmung und Konstruktion, 171; Busch, Werner 1997. Landschaftsmalerei. Geschichte der klassischen Bildgattungen in Quellentexten und Kommentaren. Band 3. Edited by Werner Busch. Berlin: Reimer, 263.
42. Howoldt, Jenns E. 2002. Von Caspar David Friedrich zu Carl Gustav Carus. Landschaftsmalerei zwischen ästhetischer Autonomie und wissenschaftlichem Anspruch. In Expedition Kunst. Die Entdeckung der Natur von C. d. Friedrich bis Humboldt. Hamburger Kunsthalle 25. Oktober 2002 bis 23. Februar 2003, 10.
43. Carus 1815−1824, Letter VIII, 125.
44. Ibid. I find this thing essential when examining the sketches and studies of landscapists, as there are many sketches and studies in which artists have simply studied the outline of trees, forests, mountains.
45. Carus 1815−1824, Letter VIII, 126.
46. Ibid, 129; Bätschmann 2002, 30.
47. Bätschmann 2002, 8.
48. Howoldt 2002, 14.
49. Ibid, 10. An oil painting of the same sight is provided in Pullin 2011, 19. For drawings, see Gedlich, Dirk 2009. Frühe künstlerische Arbeiten von Carl Gustav Carus. In Carl Gustav Carus. Wahrnehmung und Wirklichkeit. Berlin & München: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 108.
50. Howoldt 2002, 11.
51. Bätschmann 2002, 11.
52. Howoldt  2002, 13.
53. Ibid, 1.
54. “In science, man feels himself in God; in art, he feels God in himself. Art cannot therefore be regarded as superior to science; for science, as the path that leads man to supreme unity, clearly remains supreme.” Carus 1815−1824, Letter III, 90.
55. Theilmann, Rudolf 1971. Johann Wilhelm Schirmers Karlsruher Schule. Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde der Philosophisch-historischen Fakultät an der Rupecht-Karl-Universität zu Heidelberg, 17−19, 126−127.
56. These beautiful studies demonstrating, for instance, sedimentary layers, belong to the collections of Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe.
57. Hütt, Wolfgang 1995. Die Düsseldorfer Malerschule. Leipzig: E. A. Seeman, 117.
58. Baumgärtel, Bettina 2002. Naturstudie und landschaftliche Komposition. In Johan Wilhelm in seiner Zeit: Landschaft im 19. Jahrhundert zwischen Wirklichkeit und Ideal. Edited by Holsten Siegmar. Ausstellung Karlsruhe, 19.
59. Baur, Otto & Bierende, Edgar 2002. Lessing als Zeichner der Vulkaneifel. In Carl Friedrich Lessing. Romantiker und Rebell, ed. by Martina Sitt. 14. Mai bis 30. Kuli 2000 Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf. 24. August bis 22. Oktober 2000 Landesmuseum Oldenburg/Augusteum. Bremen: Donat Verlag, 114.
60. Perse, Marcell & Richter, Susanne 2010. Bilder auf Reisen – Schirmer und Amerika. In Rheinische Heimatspflege 1/2010, 47. Jahrgang. Rheinischer Verein für Denkmalpflege und Landschaftsschutz, 7; see also Leuschner, Vera 1972. Drawings by Carl Friedrich Lessing in Collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, edited by Vera Leuschner. Cincinnati.There are several drawings and watercolours in the collections of Cincinnati Art Museum which purchased the remains of Lessing’s studio.
61. Inv. Nr. 4037,  Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf.; Kulturamt, d:kult, Objekte; Gemäldegallerie; Auswahl weiterer Objekte, Seite 4
62. For this, see Baumgärtel 2002, 20.
63. For instance, Werner Holmberg (1830−1860), Berndt Lindholm (1841–1914), Hjalmar Munsterhjelm (1840−1905), Oskar Kleineh (1846–1919), Victor Westerholm (1860−1919), Fanny Churberg (1845–1892), Victoria Åberg (1824–1892).
64. Carus, Carl Gustav 1837. Bemerkungen über die Bilder der Düsseldorf Schule, Kunstblatt 18, Jahrgang 1837, Nr. 28, Nr. 29, Nr. 30; Sitt, Martina 2000. Von einem der auszog,…aber von der Geschichte eingeholt wurde – C. F. Lessing – eine Einführung. In Carl Friedrich Lessing. Romantiker und Rebell. 14. Mai bis 30. Juli 2000, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf. 24. August bis 22. Oktober 2000, Landesmuseum Oldenburg/Augusteum. Bremen: Donat Verlag, , 12; Pullin 2011, 18.
65. Ewenz, Gabriele 2010. ‘Zeittafel zum Leben von Johann Wilhelm Schirmer’. In Johann Wilhelm Schirmer. Vom Rheinland in die Welt. Band II, Autobiographische Schriften. Herausgegeben und bearbeitet von Gabriele Ewenz. Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg, 29. Schirmer was travelling around in Germany in order to formulate the syllabus for the art school in Karlsruhe where he worked as a professor for landscape and genre painting 1854−1863.
66. Perse & Richter2010, 3−4.
67. Schmitz, Ralf W. & Thissen, Jürg 2002. Neandertal. Die Geschichte geht weiter. Spektrum, Heidelberg & Berlin, 8−9.
68. Schirmer, Johann Wilhelm 2010 [1807−1830]. Fragment einer Autobiographie (1807−1830). In Johann Wilhelm Schirmer. Vom Rheinland in die Welt. Band II, Autobiographische Schriften. Herausgegeben und bearbeitet von Gabriele Ewenz. Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 67−70;  Schmitz, Ralf W. & Thissen, Jürg 2002, 9−12.
69. Inv. No. Lg. 722, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe.
70. Inv. No. A II 790, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki.

71. Aspelin 1890, 105.
72. Eggerath 1996, 148−149. In Eggerath 1996 the name of the artwork is Berglandschaft. Herbststimmung.
73. Aspelin 1890, 121, 125.
74. For this, see picture no. 67 in Bewegte Landschaften. Die Düsseldorfer Malerschule, 2003. Herausgegen von Bettina Baumgärtel & Klaus Thelen. Museum der Stadt Ratingen 11. Mai−29. Juni 2003, 15. Mai−13. Juli 2003 Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann; 18. Mai−13. Kuli 2003 Wilhelm-Fabry-Museum, Hilden. Edition Braus, 79, 145. The picture belongs to Künstlerverein Malkasten.
75. Inv. No. 636-1, National Gallery, Oslo.
76. Sketch book A I 472:2, page 19, Finnish National Gallery; Eggerath, Hanna 1996. Im Gesteins. Das ursprüngliche Neandertal in Bildern des 19. Jahrhunderts. Wienand, Köln, 150. Eggerath refers here to the years 1852 and 1853. The first year 1852, however, is not impossible as Holmberg arrived in Düsseldorf for the first time in 1853. Somebody has written on this sketch ‘Gesteins?’. It is not Holmberg’s handwriting, but it could be Anna Glad’s.
77. Inv. No. 4252, Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf.
78. Inv. No. A II 1202, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki.
79. Inv. No. A II 1347, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki.
80. Inv. No. A III 2554:270, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki.
81. Schmitz & Thissen 2002, 31.


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