Monday, September 20, 2010

The Swiss Soldier

Throughout my travels to visit family in Europe I seemed to frequently notice the same two 18th century prints. The prints typically appeared as a set. The first was of a Swiss soldier leaving home to join in the service a foreign power much to the dismay of his family. The second was the same soldier upon his triumphant return home.

I have since learned they are from the celebrated Swiss painter Sigmund Freudenberger, who specialized in rustic scenes of rural Bernese life. It made sense that my family would have these prints as the represented an idealized version of Swiss military service that they were deeply invested in.

The departure of the Swiss soldier

The return of the Swiss soldier

Interestingly, Henri de Büren while traveling through the United States in 1852, as part of his two-year journey through the Americas, even makes of mention of seeing them at the house of Mr. de Freudenreich in Alpina, New York.


Bio of Sigmund Freudenberger from www.intofineart.com
Swiss, 1745-1801,Swiss painter, draughtsman and engraver. In 1761 he went to work for the portrait painter Emanuel Handmann in Basle, where he stayed for three years. In 1765, with Adrian Zingg (1734-86), he left for Paris, where he trained with Jakob Schmutzer (1733-1811) and frequented the studio of Jean Georges Wille, the celebrated engraver. He worked as a book illustrator during this period. The work of Boucher, whom he met, and of Greuze and Fragonard had a significant influence on his artistic development. Freudenberger returned in 1773 to Berne, where he undertook several portraits. He became friendly with Johann Ludwig Aberli, with whom he travelled the countryside, which he recorded in numerous drawings, watercolours and engravings. He specialized in genre scenes, rustic still-lifes and portrayals of Bernese peasant life, which became very popular. In some works, such as a red chalk drawing of A Woman Playing the Harp (1778; Zurich, Schweizer. Landesmus.), he continued the gallant style he had learnt from Boucher. His watercolours were frequently engraved, either individually or in series, and hand-coloured. His style is characterized by detailed and careful execution and by an intimate, narrative approach, although he tended to idealize his rustic subject-matter. His work was significant in introducing genre subjects in Switzerland, where artists had tended to concentrate on pure landscape. He ran a large studio where Daniel Lafond (1763-1831), Niklaus Kenig and Georg Mind (1768-1814) were pupils. The French Revolution was disastrous for his art and his business and clouded the last years of his life.

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