Trained in Weimar and steeped in the rigorous classicism associated with its most celebrated resident, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Preller journeyed to Rome (1828-31), where he worked alongside Joseph Anton Koch, before returning to settle in Weimar and becoming the director of the city’s Freies Zeichen-Institut (Free Drawing Institute) in 1834. He continued to travel, venturing to rugged locales in Norway and the Alps; these dramatic landscapes introduced a more romantic note into his later work. His mature career featured a number of mural projects based on literary sources, such as his cycle of episodes from the Odyssey, designed in 1854-56 and executed in situ at what is now the Landesmuseum Weimar from 1865-69. Uwe Steinbrück has noted that there are very few surviving works by Preller from the 1860s when he was working in earnest on the Odyssey project. This sketchbook, which contains intimate depictions of Preller’s family members---his second wife, Jenny; his third son, Friedrich Preller the Younger; and his stepchildren—as well as landscape views, is a rare example of his work from the decade. The sketches are executed on leaves of light brown, mauve, and blue paper, and almost every page is filled, suggesting the artist kept it close at hand for a prolonged period, documenting his private life during a time of significant professional accomplishment.
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