Alexandre Calame

Alexandre Calame
(Vevey, Switzerland 1810 - 1864 Menton)

Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland, 1836

Oil on paper, laid down on canvas, 45.5 x 55 cm
Inscribed and dated lower left Vallée de Lauterbrunnen Aout / 1836

The artist’s estate (bearing the vente Calame seal on the verso);
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Catalogue de la vente qui aura lieu, par suites de Decès de Calame, March 3, 1865, lot 396 (Vallée de Lauterbrunnen), sold for 900 francs to A.;
Asbjørn Lunde (1927-2017), New York, from 2003, inv. 206.

Alpine Views. Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape, Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2006, no. 18;
Alpine Views. Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape, Storrs, The William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, 2007;
Den ville natur. Sveitisk og norsk romantikk. Malerier fra Asbjorn Lundes samling, New York, Tromsø, Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum and Bergen Billedgalleri, 2007-8, p. 83, no. 13;
Forests, Rocks, Torrents: Norwegian and Swiss Landscapes from the Lunde Collection, London, National Gallery, 2011, no. 36.


This large-format, highly detailed oil sketch on paper is an early work by Alexandre Calame. It was executed on a visit to the Bernese Oberland in August 1836 and is one of a group of studies and drawings he made in Lauterbrunnen. He first visited this part of the Alps in 1835 and was to spend almost all his summers in the area, regularly visiting the same sites. Executed en plein-air, the present oil sketch sensitively evokes the atmospheric effects of a high mountain region while capturing the characteristics of the vegetation and rock formations with extreme attention to detail.

Calame began his career as an employee of a banker named Diodati. It was Diodati who enabled him to take up painting. He financed Calame’s training from 1829 onwards under the landscape painter François Diday (1802-77). Calame spent free moments coloring Swiss views which he sold to tourists but gave up this activity in 1834 to move into a studio of his own. From then on, he was to devote his time to painting. He exhibited in Leipzig in 1837 and made his debut at the Paris Salon in 1839, where he came into contact with new trends in French painting. It was then that he began to produce lithographs for the Paris art dealer Jean Durand-Ruel. Calame’s new studio in Geneva rapidly began to attract wealthy patrons, members of the aristocracy and visitors from all over Europe. He traveled widely in France, Germany and Holland constantly searching for new motifs. He visited Rome and Naples in 1844, where he was in contact with and influenced by the international community of artists working in the two cities.


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