Ernst Ferdinand Oehme
1797 – Dresden – 1855
Mountain chapel in Winter. Circa 1850
Oil on canvas on cardboard. 28,7 × 35 cm. (11 ¼ × 13 ¾ in.) Catalogue raisonné: Not in the catalogue raisonné by Neidhardt. Retouchings.  Framed
ProvenanceFormerly Private Collection, Rhineland
EUR 20.000 – 30.000
USD 22,200 – 33,300
62,500 EUR (incl. premium)
Variation of a life theme
The motif of the chapel in winter became a kind of life theme for Ernst Ferdinand Oehme - it occupied him in various phases of his creative work and runs through his work in variations like a leitmotif. Since his first large-format painting "Cathedral in Winter" from 1821, he had been preoccupied with this pictorial idea, which accompanied him until his death. Our previously unknown, loosely and in parts summarily painted oil study with the mountain chapel in winter probably belongs to this last creative phase, which in the wintry mood and the lonely chapel still contains motivic reminiscences of the pictorial world of Caspar David Friedrich, but whose symbolism takes a back seat to the observation of nature.
Oehme leads the viewer into a snow-covered mountain range, on the summit of which a lonely chapel is enthroned in front of the atmospherically charged evening sky. Divided into clear, contrasting zones - the snow-covered foreground, the mountain ridges already shaded by the sun and, behind them, the slowly fading evening sky - the dark, partly snow-covered chapel rises like a pyramid to a place of hope. Above its portal, the mild evening light breaks through, promising warmth in this cold, barely accessible area; from the right, however, some pilgrims are approaching to worship. They have reached their destination, as it were, the summit cross that watches over the chapel where the Gospel is proclaimed and the message that God's power reaches deep into snow-covered mountain regions.
Oehme reflects both the fictional and the visionary - the mountain ranges may be inspired by excursions to Bohemia, but they are invented. Oehme also uses the pictorial vocabulary of Dresden's early Romanticism, but reinterprets it in a poetic sense that connects him more with Ludwig Richter. The procession of pilgrims is inspired by similar figurative inventions by Richter, who saw in Oehme's compositions "atmospheric pictures of a very peculiar, highly poetic kind".
Oehme first had great success with the motif of the mountain chapel in winter in 1842, when he exhibited a painting that had only recently resurfaced at the Dresden Academy. In addition, Oehme dealt with the subject in numerous drawings and watercolours; in our context, a now lost watercolour formerly owned by the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, which showed the mountain chapel in the sunset like our oil study, is probably of particular importance. Oehme had taken up the subject again in 1850, when he created almost identical versions in the morning light for the King Ludwig Album and in another watercolour in Dresden, which were disseminated through an etching by Wilhelm Witthöft. In this context, the popularity of the motif may have prompted Oehme to paint an evening counterpart, which in its focus on the evening light must be considered the most atmospheric version of all. Peter Prange
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