A more recent acquisition, this engaging landscape by Adrian Zingg brings a new artist to the Crocker's collection of drawings by professors at the Dresden Kunstakademie. Zingg's conception of landscape, elaborated during his time as a young artist in Paris, was a key development leading to the Romantic depiction of nature.
The son of a gunsmith, Adrian Zingg was born in 1734 and learned the rudiments of etching, also used to decorate weapons, from his father. He then studied with the printmaker Johann Rudolf Holzhalb in Zurich and moved to Bern at the age of twenty-three to study with Johann Ludwig Aberli, a printmaker who specialized in landscape. Aberli accompanied the young Zingg in 1759 to Paris, where he introduced him to Johann Georg Wille. Wille took the Swiss artist under his wing as he had so many others, including the painter Schenau represented in this exhibition. Over the next seven years Wille directed Zingg's studies and secured him commissions, including etching landscapes by other artists. Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn, it seems at Wille's recommendation, called Zingg to lead the printmaking department at the Dresden Kunstakademie in 1764, though he arrived only in 1766. In Dresden Zingg met his countryman Anton Graff, with whom he made a trip to the district along the Elbe River the same year.(1) The rugged landscape prompted the two artists to give the area the name "Sächsische Schweiz" or Saxon Switzerland, which it preserves today. Admitted as a foreign member to the Vienna academy in 1767 and to the Berlin academy in 1787, Zingg received the title of professor at Dresden only in 1803. The author of two textbooks on landscape published in 1805 and 1811, Zingg died in 1816.
Zingg worked very much in an etcher's style, his landscape drawings being made most often in detailed black ink with wash added only after the line drawing was complete. To produce more than one version of the same scene, in fact, he sometimes saved time by etching a large plate before adding the wash in the same way as to a drawing. In creating the Crocker drawing, Zingg used an extremely fine pen to create the outlines of rocks, land masses, and distant mountains, with more robust lines only in the foreground foliage. The masterful gradations of wash create the masses of stone and land, with fine detail in the farmsteads below. The scene depicted, the limestone rock formation surrounding the pillar known as the Bastei, or bastion, is located near the town of Rathen. Zingg unusually chooses to depict it from a neighboring promontory rather than from the plain lying along the riverbed. After the artist's death, in 1824, a pedestrian bridge was constructed for access to the formation.
Zingg's skill for landscape was developed under Wille, whose habit of taking his students on week-long sketching trips in the countryside was decisive for his technique. According to his friend Daniel Chodowiecki, Zingg made the bones of his final drawings in nature, sketching them in graphite, then going over them with ink and wash in the studio, finally adding staffage and trees to complete the composition.(2) Though any graphite on the Crocker drawing has since been erased, something of the same technique may be present here: the precise view of the Bastei formation and the river flowing along its base is accompanied by details that can only have been added to complete the composition—like the shepherd and flocks, the figures perched on the foreground hill, and the boats sailing along the Elbe. The large tree at left likewise provides a counterweight to the mass of rock opposite. Zingg's drawing records one of the principal monuments along the present-day Malerweg, a route with picturesque views along the Elbe from Pillnitz to Dečin, which has its origin in his sketching trips to the Elbsandsteingebirge with students from the Dresden Academy.
William Breazeale, 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
(1) A sketchbook containing 54 drawings records this trip, Dresden Kupferstichkabinett inv. no. Ca 1991-1, see Bärbel Muller, "Ein neuerworbenes Skizzenbuch Adrian Zinggs im Dresdner Kupferstichkabinett," in Dresdner Kunstblätter, vol. XLI, no. 1, 1997, pp. 24–27
(2) ibidem, p. 26
Inscriptions: verso, graphite, at center: 115356 / 1; verso, graphite, lower right corner: 562; verso, graphite, upper right: 562; verso, green chalk, upper center: Adr. Zing / Dresden 18. Jhrt.
Marks: verso, in black, lower left corner: Lugt 324 (Becker); verso, in blue, lower left: Lugt 2841a (Heumann)
Provenance: W. G. Becker, Dresden, before 1813. Carl Heumann, Chemnitz, before 1945. Thomas Le Claire; Museum purchase, 2006
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. 51; Thomas Le Claire, Master Drawings, Recent Acquisitions, catalogue XVII, 2005, no. 17