Saturday, 17 June 2017

Alexandre Calame’s etching “Forest of fir trees with a stream to the left”, 1845

Alexandre Calame (aka Alexandre Calam; Alexandre Calamy) (1810–64)
“Forest of Fir Trees with a Stream to the Left”, 1845, plate 16 from the series “Essais de gravure à l'eau forte par Alexandre Calame, III”, 1838/1850, incorporating four sets of landscape etchings (45 in total).

Etching on chine collé on wove paper with full margins as published.
Size: (sheet) 27.5 x 39.6 cm; (plate) 11 x 16.2 cm; (image borderline) 10.5 x 15.8 cm
Inscribed within the image borderline at lower left, “A. Calame”
Inscribed below the image borderline at lower right: “Genve 1845”

Calabi & Schreiber-Favre 1937 29 (III) (Calabi, Augusto; Schreiber-Favre, Alfred, “Les Eaux-Fortes et les lithographies d'Alexandre Calame, Die Graphischen Künste” (1937): 64-77, 110-117., 1937)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Forest of fir trees with a stream to left”, 1845”
See also the description of this print held by The National Gallery of Art and a scroll view of the other prints in the series:

Condition: crisp and near faultless impression in pristine condition with full margins as published. The impression is set slightly off-square on the sheet.

I am selling this spectacularly beautiful etching in perfect condition executed by one of the most important of the Swiss landscape artists of the 19th century, for AU$144 (currently US$109.67/EUR98.18/GBP85.88 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this poetic image of fir trees lining a stream that expresses the “bite” of Alpine air, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Calame’s prints are pure visual poetry and this etching is one of his finest—but, then again, I would say that about all of his prints as they are equally beautiful.

To help explain what I see as marvellous about this particular image I wish to draw attention to the use of tone and the way that Calame uses line.

One of the first things that I notice when looking at this print is the tonal “jump” from the dark foreground of tree trunks, shown on the right side of the scene, to the much lighter grey tones of distant trees beyond the stream, shown on the left. This visual device of portraying landscape features as lighter in tone towards the distance is, of course, a well-known and often applied a form of perspective (i.e. a way of achieving the illusion of spatial depth) what I wish to describe as “tonal perspective”. What makes Calame’s use of tonal perspective interesting to me is that he has combined this type of perspective with aerial perspective (i.e. a perspective where the landscape progressively diminishes in focal clarity towards the distance from “in-focus” to “out-of-focus”). What really makes Calame’s treatment of spatial depth masterful is that he combines visual phenomena of how the eye tends to perceive distance with a very special attribute: a change in tactile appearance expressed as spatial depth.

What I mean by this curious description is that Calame renders the foreground tree trunks with an insightful mixture of mimetic marks (i.e. marks that mimic surface textures) and contour marks (i.e. marks that are curved to match the portrayed subject’s form). By contrast, and through progressive evolution in the application of this very special tactile/haptic perspective (i.e. a perspective for the visual equivalents of texture and touch), Calame renders the far distant features with aligned vertical or horizontal strokes.

I would love to extend this description of the visual devices that Calame employs by suggesting that his use of line not only describes his observations but also connotes the notion of how Alpine air “bites” the nose with cold dryness … but I suspect that I may be pushing the boundaries of what is believable and can be seen easily without too much debate.

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