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The Reproduction Process

Konigsee, Bavaria. The painting by Frederic Edwin Church
Colors used:
Konigsee, Bavaria

It is well known that, much like his peers in the Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church had a preference for painting his amazing depictions of magnificent landscapes in loco, experiencing first hand not only the visuals of the landmarks, but the overall feeling caused by their presence. That is to say that what interested the painter was not only to record the visual appearance of the landmarks, but to completely transmit the experience of being there and, being restricted by their choice in media, employ all manner of dramatic tools to improve the experience of the observer.

Yet, the landscapes produced by those great artists very often either didn’t represent their subject matter truthfully or rendered a scene that existed only in the artist’s mind, but was very representative of the type of setting that had inspired that piece. As such, it is difficult to know which is the case of this oil and graphite on board, considering that, although Church would have been in Europe in the year of its creation, 1868, his biography does not mention any trips or even visits to the then independent Kingdom of Bavaria, even though he and his family spent a good few months in Rome, which would have been close enough for a day trip to the southern German region.

Adding to it, Church created a large number of drawings and sketches inspired by the Bavarian region, many of which are now held by the Cooper Hewitt Collection of the Smithsonian Design Museum, having been gifted to them by Louis P. Church, son of the artist, in 1917. It was not at all uncommon for Church to compose powerful images based on sketches and descriptions made by others, as is evidenced by his 1861 masterpiece The Icebergs, which had been created based on the reports and drawings of his pupil Louis Legrand Noble.

Having that in mind, one could wonder whether Church was planning to produce a similarly important painting having the Bavarian landscape as its subject matter but, for whatever reason, his process never went beyond more simple works like this rendition of the King’s Lake, Köenigssee in German. The region’s political instability at the time might have counted against it, considering that the artist was no stranger to making politically charged pieces.

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