(Würzburg 1834 – 1902 Munich)
Signed and dated lower right 19 F. Knab 01/5
Oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 33 ½ inches
Private collection, Germany.
Painted just one year before his death in 1902, Evening Landscape is a prime example of Ferdinand Knab’s enigmatic and romantic depictions of nature. As in many of his paintings, the only indication of human presence are the classical ruins in the distance. Life instead presents itself in the form of Italian stone pine and olive trees, lichen and flowers on the banks of the stream, and two bright white doves gliding towards the foreground. Knab has carefully chosen these elements for their symbolic meanings of peace, hope and regeneration. The tree in the foreground, though dead, continues to stretch up towards the heavens as it is overtaken by the twining blooms that scale its base. Unlike many of Knab’s dark images of classical architecture in a landscape, the current painting imbues the inevitability of death with a message of optimism and beauty. Known for his colorfully lit impressions of dusk, this work alternatively appears to take place at dawn. The ground glistens with the suggestion of morning dew and the clouds seem to dissipate from the heat of the rising sun. This ostensibly desolate landscape is in fact a metaphor for rebirth, assuring that from death comes new life.
Ferdinand Knab originally studied architecture under Carl Alexander Heideloff in Nuremburg, but in 1859 he left for Munich to study painting under the renowned history painters Carl Theodor von Piloty and Arthur von Ramburg. His success in Munich earned him the opportunity to pursue a residency in Italy in 1868. Before he departed for his trip abroad, Knab had already been enamored of eighteenth-century French depictions of classical ruins, most notably by the internationally-known works by Hubert Robert. After experiencing the crumbling ruins of antiquity for himself, the artist returned to Munich and dedicated his career to the subject. Knab became renowned for his fascination with the immemorial landscape, even attracting the attention of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He was instated as royal court painter and completed a number of decorative commissions, including the King’s Munich residence and the Schloss Linderhof, the only palace Ludwig II would live to see completed.