The Ruins of Pompeii

“The Forum, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the Distance” (1841)

Last Sunday, I saw this Danish painting at the Getty Center and dreamed of visiting Pompeii. The artist of Christian Schjellerup Købke (1810-1848), who, like many 18th and 19th century artists did the Grand Tour. He returned to Denmark after a year or two of travel in sunnier climes—and promptly died at the age of 37 of pneumonia. I loved Købke’s painting, though I am saddened that he was cut off in his prime.

In earlier centuries, people were much more matter-of-fact about the suddenness of death—at any age. Although I would love to have seen Pompeii as Købke did, I am saddened that he did not have a longer career. Below is an earlier of his delicate landscapes:

“View of a Street in Østerbro Outside Copenhagen – Morning Light” (1836)

It’s not easy to paint a great landscape. Some painters had the knack, such as Theodore Rousseau, Jacob van Ruisdael, Claude Lorraine, Nicolas Poussin, and J.M.W. Turner. To that list, I would add Christen Købke.

Wild Nature

“Mare au Crépuscule” (1850) by Theodore Rousseau

“Mare au Crépuscule” (1850) by Theodore Rousseau

When I went to the Getty Center last Sunday, there was a traveling exhibit of the mostly landscape paintings of Pierre Etienne Théodore Rousseau. I had never heard of him before. I even asked one of the docents whether that was the same as Henri ”Douanier” Rousseau. Then, when I saw the paintings, I realized that here was a very different artist.

Théodore Rousseau painted nature as she is seen, not as a manicured garden. Here were trees that were alive and dominated the landscape. And man does not figure as a dominant force in most of his work.

“The Pond Near the Road” (1848)

“The Pond Near the Road” (1848)

Étienne Pierre Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was considered to be a painter of the Barbizon School, which takes its name from the village of Barbizon near the Forest of Fontainebleau, where many of its adherents would gather. Their work was marked by “its tonal qualities, color, loose brushwork, and softness of form” according to Wikipedia.

After all these years, I am getting a little fatigued with many of the impressionist painters; so it was a relief to see someone who work made me stop in my tracks admiring an artist who was new to me.