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Carl Hummel

* 1821 – † 1907

Reichenau near Chur

Graphite on paper
51,6 cm34,8 cm
20.31"13.70"

LAbelled, dated, and signed at bottom left: "Reichenau b. Chur. 1857 C. Hummel."

Reichenau near Chur

Of Carl Hummel we still know little more than what Friedrich von Boetticher was able to relate – “for the most part after the artist’s own handwritten notes”1 – in 1891. According to that source, he was a student of Friedrich Preller the Elder at the Weimar drawing school from 1834 to 1842, after which he spent four years in Italy (1842–1846), visiting all the usual places, including Sicily. On his return he settled in Weimar, where in 1859 he was appointed professor. The choice of his native Weimar was certainly not an arbitrary one, for as the son of the famous Hofkapellmeister Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Carl Hummel had close ties to the court of Weimar and on his return from Italy seems to have been able to make these work in his favour. Boetticher at any rate deemed it worth mentioning that from 1848, Hummel was engaged as a painting teacher to Helene, Duchess of Orléans, who at the time was living in Eisenach, and that through this “highly talented pupil” he also gained admission to her wider “family circle.” He also describes a stay at the Villa Carlotta on Lake Como, which had been a wedding gift of Marianne, Princess of Orange- Nassau (1810–1883) to her daughter, Charlotte of Prussia (1831–1855). Hummel, says Boetticher, went there at the invitation of the latter’s husband, George II, Prince of Saxe- Meiningen (1826–1914) in the summer of 1855, Charlotte herself having died in childbirth a short time before.2 Returning to the region at the foot of the old Alpine passes – the San Bernardino and Julier Pass – the following year, Hummel produced this superb drawing in graphite on paper. Composed with great self-assurance and executed with virtuosity, though not without a certain melancholy, it shows two mighty trees on gently sloping terrain: the one in front bare and dead, a leafless ruin, the one behind it bursting with life and vigour, putting forth dense clusters of foliage, its boughs swooping down toward the valley. Growth and decay – and not just anywhere, but there “where the green, clear waters of the Vorderrhein mingle with the blackish-blue torrents of the somewhat less grand Hinterrhein, there stands Schloss Reichenau with its fine park, from which the eye can take in the confluence of the two rivers.”3 The castle had been famous ever since Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans (1773–1850) had sought refuge there for a few months in 1793. In the summer of 1852 Helene of Orléans, Louis Philippe’s daughter-in-law, formerly Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1814–1858), made a pilgrimage there together with her sons, “that the hard truths that the place itself seemed to preach so loudly and so hauntingly might impress themselves upon their receptive young souls.”4


  1. Boetticher, Friedrich von, Malerwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts, Vol. I/2, 1891, p. 595.

  2. Ibid., pp. 590–591.

  3. Wittich, Alexander, Helene Louise Elisabeth Herzogin von Orléans zu Eisenach, mit Erinnerungen aus ihrem Jugendleben, Jena 1860, p. 23. Digitalisat: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/BV021051310/ft/bsb10065575? page=33 (accessed: 12.02.2017).

  4. Ibid., pp. 22–24. Digitalisat: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bvb:12- bsb10065575-3 (accessed: 12.02.2017).

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