(Fredrikshald, Norway 1802 - 1842 Munich)
The Bay of Naples, 1833
Oil on paper, laid down on cardboard, 14.7 x 24.8 cm
Inscribed, dated and monogrammed lower right Neapel 1/7 33 TF.
Oslo, Grev Wedels Plass, auction sale, November 19, 2003, lot 23;
Asbjørn Lunde (1927-2017), New York, from 2003, inv. 223.
In Front of Nature: The European Landscapes of Thomas Fearnley, Birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Art, University of Birmingham, 2012-13, p. 42, fig. 25,
Johan Christian Dahl prized his compatriot Fearnley’s plein-air studies especially highly. His friend’s untimely death at the age of only thirty-nine in 1842 prompted Dahl to contact the board of the newly-founded Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo. He urged them to acquire a group of oil studies from Fearnley’s estate and pointed out that there could be no better way of commemorating him than by concentrating on his oil studies, ‘as these were better than the finished paintings; here he gave of himself, as he really was, and what he felt in front of nature.’1
This plein-air oil sketch was completed in July 1833. Fearnley spent much of the summer of 1833 working in the coastal area south of Naples – in Castellammare, Sorrento and Amalfi. Topographical accuracy was not his objective. Rather, his primary interest lay in conveying the palpable atmosphere of a hot summer’s day when high humidity veils the landscape and the sea, distant mainland and clouds dissolve in subtly nuanced shades of blue.
Fearnley remained in Dresden for eighteen months before traveling on to southern Germany. He arrived in Munich in 1830, where he struck up friendships with the painters Christian Morgenstern, Jørgen Sonne and Wilhelm Bendz. Later that year he continued his journey southwards and arrived in Rome. Capturing the intensity of Mediterranean light was now his central preoccupation – as evidenced by his oil sketches. He travelled extensively in Italy in 1832 and 1835.
1 Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet; letter dated May 28, 1843 from Dresden.