ADAM ELSHEIMER: THE MASTER OF MYSTERIOUS LIGHT

Exploring the expressive, often mysterious effects of light, the small and intricate paintings on copper produced by the German Baroque Era Painter, Adam Elsheimer, are best known for their technical precision and inventive explorations of landscapes.

Celebrated as an important figure in the development of 17th century landscape painting, Elsheimer was born on March 18, 1578, in Frankfurt am Main. He studied with Philipp Uffenbach in Frankfurt, where he learned the basic techniques of German Renaissance art. Influenced by the works of several Dutch landscape painters, Elsheimer traveled to Munich and Venice, where he was inspired by the work of Tintoretto.

In 1600, Elsheimer went to Rome and there he joined a group of artists that included Peter Paul, Rubens and Paul Brill, and began to produce paintings of Italian classical subjects and landscapes with small figures, often overpowered by massive foliage. Elsheimer learned a new feeling for sculptural value and expressing mood through light and shadow from Caravaggio.

Elsheimer painted in a miniature-like technique, mostly on small copper plates, yet he handled both pen and brush with amazing freedom. He invented a new type of landscape. Instead of simple background, his gentle world enveloped figures with mysterious light and romantic charm. His frequent depiction of illumination by firelight and candlelight was unusual for the period.

Elsheimer's ‘Flight into Egypt' (1609) is one of the first nocturnal landscape painting in which the moon and the stars are the principal sources of light.  Elsheimer's output was small but greatly influenced the Dutch and Italian schools, and particularly Rembrandt and Claude Lorrain.

Elsheimer's intimate and deep poetic visions immediately found admirers and and attracted artists from throughout Europe. Unfortunately, he had a “natural inclination for melancholy” and after making a bad partnership with a rich, vain Dutch etcher, he became overwhelmed and unable to work. The etcher thrown Elsheimer into debtors' prison, which led to his death. Elsheimer died on December 11, 1610.

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