Hermann Ottomar Herzog
"Droving the Herd at Sunset", 1878
oil on canvas
signed and dated lower right, faintly dated on effaced brass artist plaque, frame backing with antique "Kane's, Philadelphia" label.
Presented in a giltwood frame.
16" x 24", framed 25-5/8" x 33-5/8"
Provenance: Private collection, New Jersey.
Notes: Hermann Herzog's epic landscapes, accentuated by dramatic lighting, captivated the imagination of 19th- and 20th-century collectors, because the artist depicted the rugged Alps and vast rivers and plains of the American wilderness through the rosy-tinted lens of "romantic pantheism." For Herzog, the landscape was a sublime experience; it was a reflection of God's creation that simultaneously awed and terrified people, and it was a medium for spiritual transcendence that both sanctioned and abated manifest destiny. In the 1870s, Herzog's ethereal tonalist views of American pastorals and the precipices of the uncharted West provided an escapist reprieve from the war-torn East.
In this painting, the low horizon and immense sky that engulf more than half the picture plane in a haze of pink cause the last rays of light to naturally blur into an atmospheric perspective that only Herzog, an accomplished Barbizon/Hudson River School artist, could truly capture through the bravura of reverse lighting - where the landscape is ethereally lit from behind, casting the foreground into warm shadows. Nowhere is this stunning effect better visualized than in the silhouettes of the cattle, the ashen roiling clouds and umber trees. As The Philadelphia Press lauded his work: "His faculty of choosing the most effective illumination... assisted by the rapidity of execution which enables him to seize and fetter the most transient phenomena of light and shade - of clouds that pass and of water - amount to genius and make his pictures unique among landscapes."
References: Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings, Works of Hermann Herzog to Be sold by Auction. New York: American Art Galleries, 1888; Herman Herzog, 1831-1932. New York: Chapellier Galleries, 1971.