Artwork of the month January

James Baker Pyne, Lake with mountains, around 1853

James Baker Pyne

1800 in Bristol, † 1870 in London

Lake with mountains, around 1853

Oil on canvas,

Donated by Count Maurice Arnold de Bendern 1968

This idyllically composed landscape is among the ten paintings whose donation to Liechtenstein led to the foundation of the Liechtenstein State Art Collection in 1968: two woody ridges slope down from the centre left and right edge of the picture respectively to a lake, which constitutes the main subject of the bottom part of the picture. The lake shore seen in the foreground is shaded, so that the vegetation and make-up of the ground remain indeterminate. The course of the shoreline is equally vague, leading the eye into the background, where a mountain rises amidst the haze. The sunlight, refracted and diffused by a fine layer of cloud, brightens the distant mountains, that almost blend into one with the clouds at one point – just before the latter clear and reveal the blue of the sky.

With its bright colouring and tendency to dissolve the objective forms of nature in a brilliant atmosphere, the painting, still following the classical taste of its day, is already reminiscent of William Turner's landscapes (1775 – 1851). With the aid of a painting technique in which Turner fused the specific work processes of oil painting and watercolour, he visualised the ephemeral phenomena of nature (for instance haze or steam, the moving sea or cloud formations), which he thus saw as constantly changing.

The undated and unsigned painting Lake with mountains is attributed to James Baker Pyne, who taught himself painting after following a legal career, achieving his first success with his watercolours of English landscapes. This portrayal of an untouched landscape free of clearly distinguishable figures and any kind of use, cannot be ascribed to any specific location. However, it is probable that he created it on the basis of sketches taken during his travels in Switzerland, Germany and Italy, turning them into oils in his studio.

<b>James Baker Pyne, Lake with mountains, around 1853</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.