Monday, January 2, 2017

Christian Daniel Rauch

Today marks the 240th anniversary of the birth of Christian Daniel Rauch, the most important German sculptor of the 19th century, and yet barely known of in the English-speaking world - he’s not even mentioned in modern editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica (print or online). The only readily available source of information is a late 19th century biography of Rauch, free to download at Internet Archive, which also contains many references to the diary he kept, both as a young man and a very old one.

Rauch was born at Arolsen in the Principality of Waldeck in the Holy Roman Empire on 2 January 1777. His father was employed at the court of Prince Frederick II of Hesse. From the age of 18, Christian was apprenticed to the court sculptors, in Arolsen (now Bad Arolsen) and Cassel (now Kassel). After the death of his father and older brother, he moved to Berlin where he found employment as groom of the chamber in the court of Frederick William III. Continuing to sculpt in his spare time, he came under the influence of Johann Gottfried Schadow. In 1802, he exhibited Sleeping Endymion.

After surprising Rauch at work one day, Queen Louise (Frederick’s wife) sent him to study at the Prussian Academy of Art; and, in 1804, Count Sandrecky sponsored him to continue his studies in Rome, where he stayed for six years. There he was befriended by Wilhelm von Humboldt, Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, and it was there that he produced a life-size bust of Queen Louise in marble. Back in Berlin, he was commissioned to sculpt another likeness of Louise, this time a representation of her in a sleeping position. It was placed in the mausoleum in the grounds of Charlottenburg, a city close to the west of Berlin. Subsequently, he created a similar statue which was placed in the Sanssouci Park at Potsdam.

By this time, Rauch had become famous and much in demand for public statues, some very large: Bülow and Scharnhorst at Berlin, Blücher at Breslau, Maximilian at Munich, Francke at Halle, Dürer at Nuremberg, Luther at Wittenberg, and the grand-duke Paul Frederick at Schwerin. In 1824 alone, he is said to have produced 70 busts. In 1830, he began collaborating with the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to build a colossal equestrian monument in Berlin in honour of Frederick the Great (who had died nearly 50 years earlier). The monument was inaugurated with great pomp in 1851, and, according to the 1911 version of Encyclopædia Britannica (there is no mention of him in modern editions of the encyclopaedia), it was regarded as ‘one of the masterpieces of modern sculpture’ (though, obviously, ‘modern’ sculpture has come a long way since then).

Rauch was much feted and honoured during his later years, but continued to work, producing a statue of Kant for Königsberg and a statue of Thaer for Berlin, before dying in 1857 while still working on a statue of Moses. There is very little information in English about Rauch online, other than at Wikipedia, which itself has taken information from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article. The only substantial source of biographical information about Rauch in English is probably the 1893 biography by Friedrich Eggers - Life Of Christian Daniel Rauch - published by Lee & Shepard in Boston. Modern print-on-demand editions are readily available, but it is also free to download from Internet Archive.

Eggers’ biography is also the only English-language source of information about Rauch’s diaries. Eggers refers to, and quotes from, Rauch’s diary regularly throughout his biography, usually without any exact date. Here are some extracts from the biography selected because they mention Rauch’s diaries.

‘The young traveller had already begun to keep a diary, as he continued to do all his life, but it was usually more a record of observations and facts than of feelings; but as he started on this eventful journey he looked back over his youthful life and made these notes in pencil.

“I left Schwalbach with peculiar reflections. I was here in March, 1793, at the beginning of the second campaign of Prussia against the French. I met my brother on the march hither near Wickert, and made the march to that place with him; slept one night there, and then, having seen my brother less than twenty-four hours, I travelled back in storm and snow over Wiesbaden to my parents. I was then a little more than sixteen years old, and beginning to learn sculpture. The future lay in the dark distance before me. All was expectation: this tumult of strife before me, never before seen; the crowds of discontented people; the devastation of war, then incomprehensible to me; the throng of people, which formed like lines on foot and horseback on all the roads, amazed me. One saw this scene from every hill, the fearful Mainz always before the eyes. All this made me sick, although I was sound in body. At Wiesbaden, where I slept the next night, I became homesick, and I hurried with all my force towards home, where my parents and friends expected and received me. Perhaps I tell this little digression without connection, but it escaped me without my will, and my last word was ‘reflections.’

With these I left this morning the misty Schwalbach, which brought back again all the ideas and wishes with which I then travelled this way; and I now compared them, thanking Heaven and blessing my parents that what I longed for eleven years before (it always seemed to me as if my innermost wishes would be gratified, but I could not count upon it then) was brought to me in all its fulness at this moment, when I was hastening to glorious Rome, - my goal, the goal of all men who love the noble, especially the goal of artists and poets. I have the joy of which hundreds are worthy, and yet they cannot reach it.

Grateful and happy, I stood upon the height and looked over the broad Rhine valley. The Rhine streams through this beautiful meadow about green islands which seem made for his pastime, or as if he made them himself. Above, perhaps in the region of Mannheim, one sees it in a long stripe as it bounds the horizon, and through this distant opening it seems to rush towards one. Mainz has something fearful to me, it lies so big, so strongly fortified there, watching the Rhine; there is something commanding in this part of the landscape. The cathedral, the castle, the specially large buildings, have a decided blood-red color, and this is fearfully mirrored in the water. The long bridge of seven hundred and thirty paces appears from the road like a little string of pearls binding both shores together.” ’


‘Rauch’s diary has preserved for us a most interesting and precious record of his experiences and thoughts.

At Ludwigsburg he first saw a monument of Dannecker’s, and soon afterwards became acquainted with him. He speaks thus of the now world-renowned Ariadne: “Dannecker has modelled a life-sized nude Ariadne riding on a tiger; she is so boldly outstretched that, while taming this wild beast, she seems to be pleasantly carried along with it!”

He shows in his journal the keenest sensibility to the beautiful natural scenery of the Rhine, and no less to the interesting historic associations, as well as the rare objects of scientific interest, like the beautiful crystals. Always and everywhere he had his eyes open, and was never weary of observation and study.’


‘During the last year of his life Rauch’s diary contains frequent notices of meetings with his friend Alexander von Humboldt, who survived him a year and a half.’


‘On the first of September, Rauch, with his daughter Agnes and her husband, went to Donaustauf. In the afternoon they went to the Walhalla. Here they were received by the builder Estner, who had kept charge of the work for fifteen years; and the splendid bronze doors were opened to them. Rauch says in his diary: “I found the six statues on their stagings near the place of erection, all freed from the boxes, and not injured in the least. The impression of the whole on us was above all magnificent, such as was never seen; the novelty and beauty of the materials, the finished work, praising alike the builder and the architect, such as has never been accomplished in Germany in any time.” ’


‘Rauch at this time took a warm interest in the development of German painting. When the frescos of the museum were unveiled in 1844, he wrote in his diary: “I never experienced such a powerful impression from a work of art as from this. God bless the artists and princes through whom arise such genuine works of art for the joy and satisfaction of the present and the future!” ’


‘He writes in his diary only: “Towards evening, in the company of Bunsen and Dr. Meyer, the private physician to his highness Prince Albert, I visited the first wonder-works of antique sculpture at the British Museum, the Elgin marbles, taking but flying notice of the other art treasures.” His friends seem to have done their duty most thoroughly in showing him all the sights of London, including also visits to Oxford and the Isle of Wight, where he saw Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, and Barclay’s brewery.’


‘The king rewarded Rauch’s loyal affection with every mark of confidence and honor. Rauch notes in his diary of May 31, 1842: “Morning, six o’clock. To my great surprise, and without the least suspicion, I received through the general-order commission the insignia and the order of the statute of peace, ‘pour le mérite,’ from his majesty the king.” ’


‘He notes in his diary the names of many titled visitors to his atelier, sometimes with an affectionate word of comment; but dearest of all to him are the visits of artists, among which that of the Nestor of sculpture, Thorwaldsen, is especially welcome.’


‘In his diary he gives an account of the festivities of his seventieth birthday, January 1, 1847. After giving a full account of the music, speeches, etc., he wrote, “This was the most beautiful day of my life;” and adds, to complete his felicity he had the hope of his daughter’s family being reunited to him in Berlin. We have seen how sad was the fulfilment of this hope.’


‘Rauch kept his eightieth anniversary quietly with his beloved daughter Agnes, and in the evening had a great feast with his pupils and workmen. Rietschel came to the feast, and modelled his friend’s bust. His diary, faithfully kept, gives us brief notes of his last year of life. It contains affectionate mention of his old friends Humboldt and Rietschel; speaks of social enjoyments and kind attentions from the king, and of short excursions for health and pleasure. On the fourteenth of October his diary closes.’

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