Landscape with a Cliff, n.d.
Franz Xaver Rektorzik (Czech, 1793–1851)
Pen and black ink, watercolor, and gouache on beige wove paper, 17 in. x 21 13/16 in. (43.2 x 55.4 cm). Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection, 1871.1272.

First trained by his father, the Brno painter Ignaz Rektorzik, Franz Xaver Rektorzik (1793–1851) went on to study with the sculptors Ignaz Weidlich, Bartolomeo Girardoni, and Antonio Arrigoni. Although Franz Xaver remained an amateur draughtsman and printmaker, this landscape shares many affinities with vedute created by Austrian Biedermeier artists such as Rudolf Alt, Franz Steinfeld, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, and Friedrich Gauermann.

Biedermeier artists often went on sketching trips in their local environs and sketched directly from nature. As a group they exhibited a great interest in realistically representing the diversity of everyday life and the environment. In the Biedermeier style, Rektorzik’s vigorous drawing demonstrates a delicate handling of light and creates the illusion of a closely observed nature in its wealth of details. Rektorzik asserts that it was done nach der Natur, and pays close attention to the treatment of light, the small details of the leaves on the trees of the vast forest, and the beautiful blue flowers found scattered throughout the scene—most likely gentians.(1) Rektorzik shows incredible dexterity with watercolor, rendering the landscape as two distinct regions by shifting the palette: in the forest along the right edge, he uses muted tones of green to suggest atmospheric perspective as the trees gets closer to the horizon, whereas, in the foreground, he uses more vibrant reddish-browns, tans, blues, and greens.

While the drawing demonstrates directness in reproducing nature, it also includes a figure and cow, which appear to be anecdotal and were probably incorporated later to create an idyllic effect. Rektorzik combines the Biedermeier interest in rendering atmospheric effects and in accurately describing their local environment; his watercolor most likely depicts a region of southern Moravia, where, as Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann notes, comparable terrain can be found near the Austrian border.(2)

This drawing is similar in style to other drawings by the artist in Brno, as well as to a signed etching that shows the same lush treatment of the treetops in a mountainous landscape with cows and figures walking along a path.(3)

Freyda Spira, in William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010

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(1) A comparison can be made with the gentians in Franz Xavier Petter’s Woodland Flowers, 1860. For more on the flowers in this work see Geraldine Norman, Biedermeier Painting 1815–1848 Reality Observed in Genre, Portrait and Landscape, New York, 1987, p. 50.

(2) Kaufmann 2004 as in Literature above, p. 236.

(3) Brno, Moravská Galerie, inv. nos. B11518, B10808; British Museum, inv. no. 1866-11-10-1111.

Inscriptions: pen and dark brown ink, lower right corner, signed: Nach der Natur. F. Rektorzik. Brünn

Marks: none

Provenance: Edwin Bryant Crocker, Sacramento, by 1871; gift of his widow Margaret to the Museum, 1885

Literature: William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010, no. 54; Thomas daCosta Kaufmann, Central European Drawings in the Collection of the Crocker Art Museum, Turnhout, 2004, p. 236; Master Drawings from Sacramento, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 1971, checklist p. 160

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