Bâle 1758 – 1844
The Grotto at Vicovaro
Gouache on blue paper
292 x 476 mm – 11 ½ x 18 12/16 in.
Provenance: Kasimir Hagen, Koln, his stamp (Lugt 4795) on the verso.
Exhibition: Europaïsche Zeichnungen zut Zeit Goethes, Goethe Museum, Düsseldorf, 2005, n° 3, p. 15.
Born in Basel, Birmann was trained by his father, a stone carver, and by several Swiss artists such as the landscape painter Johann Ludwig Aberli (1723 – 1786), who had himself studied in Paris with Jean George Wille and developed an interest for Salomon Gessner and Jean Jacques Rousseau’s philosophical ideas. It is probably Alberli who infused Birmann with a taste for colored and romantic landscape. In 1781 Birmann went to Rome where he worked for the Swiss artist Abraham Louis Ducros and the Italian engraver Giovanni Volpato, in whose studio his taste for landscape strengthened even more. Back in Basel in 1790, he opened a studio and dedicated to landscape. His son Samuel (1793 – 1857) also became a landscape painter.
Peter Birmann was also an art dealer.
Close to Tivoli, Vicovaro is a picturesque town located north of Rome. Its grotto, just like Tivoli’s many grottos, attracted artists in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its romantic atmosphere and dramatic chiaroscuro, created by the disposition of the massive boulders and lush vegetation, inspired Simon Denis and Jean Charles Rémond among other artists.
This drawing was exhibited in 2005 at the Goethe Museum in Düsseldorf and published in the exhibition catalogue (see Literature).