Monday, December 15, 2014

Alexandre Calame

Chalets at Rigi
oil on canvas
40.6 x 62.2 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Alexandre Calame (1810-1864) was a Swiss painter. Among the most celebrated Swiss landscape painters of the 19th century, he made a particular speciality of Alpine mountain scenes. The Alps was his speciality. The glaciers, emerald-green, white foaming mountain water, which split the trees during the storm, and the whipped clouds, the multi-colored rocks, half masked from fog, in the rays of the gleaming sun, are those things, which he knew to be true to nature.

He was the son of a skillful marble worker, born in a part of Vevey, but because his father lost the family fortune, he could not concentrate on art, but rather he was forced to work in a bank from the age of 15. When his father fell from a building and then died, it was up to the young Calame to provide for his mother. But, despite losing his right eye as a child, he was determined to make a career as an artist. In 1829 he met his patron, a banker, who made it possible for him to study landscape painting. He first came to the attention of French collectors and connoisseurs at the Salon of 1839. His painting was a great success in Paris, and his success was assured. His paintings, worked up from oil sketches and drawings made sur le motif, were in great demand, and were purchased by collectors throughout Europe, and particularly in Russia. One of his most ingenious works is the representation of the four seasons and times of the day in four landscapes, a spring morning in the south, a summer midday in the Nordic flatlands, an Autumn evening, and a winter night on a mountain.