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Alexandre Calame

Lac des Quatre-Cantons près de Brunnen, 1857
oil on canvas
90.0 x 120.0 cm
Alexandre Calame is solemnly celebrating here the beauties of a new homeland since Geneva only became part of the Swiss Confederation in 1814. In Lac des Quatre-Cantons près de Brunnen (Lake of the Four Cantons near Brunnen, 1857), he offers a masterly solution to the difficulty that is posed by the complexity of this type of landscape, for mass, grandeur and distance are characteristics that need to be worked with care if the painter is to avoid provoking a feeling of monotony in the viewer.

In 1845 Calame’s health begins to decline and he must forego travelling in high altitudes. He now opts for the Lake of the Four Cantons, which he sketches on site before reworking the image in paint and in a large format in the studio. Calame will eventually explore this subject from various points of view and in a range of formats.

As is often the case in his canvases, the foreground is carefully elaborated and presents a clear contrast with the mountain peaks bathed in light in the background. Fur trees that have been snapped in two by the force of nature, a recurrent theme in his paintings, catch a few rays from the sun in the foreground, plunging the alpine chalet standing next to them in shadow. The shy flame of a lantern is seen shining on one wall, a suggestion of some human life there. Further on, the viewer can make out, lost in the mineral landscape of the stone, the greenish blue lake of this romantic theatre set amidst towering snowbound peaks.
Alexandre Calame, Lac des Quatre-Cantons près de Brunnen, 1857