Landscape with the Artist Sketching, n.d.Wilhelm von Bemmel (Dutch, 1630-1708)
Active both as a painter and an etcher, Willem van Bemmel spent much of his career outside his native Netherlands. Born in Utrecht, he likely studied under Herman van Saftleven in his early years, though documentary evidence is scant. In the late 1650s, he traveled to Italy where, like many other Dutch artists, he spent much of his time sketching Rome and its countryside. Bemmel settled in Nuremberg in 1662, where he became friends with the painter and founder of the city’s art academy, Jakob von Sandrart. During these years, he may have participated in the academy’s activities, since Sandrart’s Teutsche Akademie, outlining his theory of painting, mentions Bemmel in relation to landscape painting.
Perhaps because of his early experience with the Italian landscape and its incorporation into his art, Bemmel’s landscapes appealed especially to German artists interested in the pastoral. In this drawing, however, Bemmel takes another approach. Focusing on the contrast between grandeur and idiosyncrasy in the natural world, he includes storm-damaged trees in the foreground at the edge of a forest. Adding charm to the scene are a rustic cottage nestled among the trees and an artist perched upon a hillock at lower right recording the landscape in his sketchbook. The figure serves to lead the eye as the viewer peers over his shoulder and sketchbook to the landscape beyond.