Thursday, April 23, 2015

Carl Gustav Carus, Stone Age Mound

Carl Gustav Carus, Stone Age Mound, 1820

Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869) was a German painter who was also a doctor, physiologist, naturalist, and psychologist.  Born in Leipzig, Carus received a doctorate of both medicine and philosophy in 1811 and became a professor of obstetrics in 1814.  He had already taken some drawing classes and he wrote on art theory as a hobby.  Around his time Carus began teaching himself painting, with some instruction from Caspar David Friedrich.  Carus's scientific successes included an appointment as personal physician to the King of Saxony, and an archetype of vertebrate physiology.  Carl Jung credited him with being the first to "point to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche."  Although his writing on art theory became well known and made him a leading scholar of his time, Carus considered his painting little more than a hobby. As a painter, he was concerned almost exclusively with landscape.  He demonstrates great draughtsmanship and natural talent, as well as en excellent feel for Romantic drama (he was, after all, close friends with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).  Stone Age Mound is a beautiful example of Carus's skill.  There is great sensitivity in his use of line to shape the contours of the earth, and his colors are subtle but rich.  The careful interplay of earth, water, sky, and sun gives the painting a complex intensity that is mysterious and engaging.

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