A Fountain in Moonlight by Carl Gustav Carus

by mitchellgallery


Carl Gustav Carus, (1789-1869), A Fountain in Moonlight, ca. 1854-1857, Charcoal with white opaque watercolor on blue paper, Thaw Collection, Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2017.24

It was a spur of the moment decision to write on this Carl Gustav Carus piece. Some of the others in the gallery may have stood out more due to their size or oddity, but in one glance I could tell that the Carus piece would make an excellent end-piece to the blogs on this exhibition.

Carus made his living as a physician, and was a landscape painter by passion. He was involved with many from the Romantic movement in art. Both Goethe and Franz Liszt were friends (in fact this painting was given to Liszt as a gift); and he studied under Casper David Friedrich, the renowned landscape painter. In this way he stands among many of the other painters we have in this exhibition: a skilled enthusiast. But the draw that I found towards this painting had more to do with the scene depicted.

When I think of “The Lure of Nature”, it is odd to see this painting. A depiction of a more metropolitan scene stand out from the rest of these paintings. The most obvious object we would call natural, the trees, are depicted as shadow, making the man-made object stand out more. Immediately I thought of our own fair city, and how little nature there seems to be, how much it too could be said to be in shadow. But what, then, attracted Carus to this scene? He could have painted an almost architectural drawing of the fountain alone. But no, we get a night scene. And there I think we have the connection to our city. Carus focuses most on the effect of the moonlight on the scene. That is the nature he is focusing on. And can we not go out, either in day or night, and take joy and observe the effects. This is really the underlying nature we experience in our everyday life, and what we can’t escape from even when we brick over the grass or cut down the trees. So come in and examine what weather is like in the paintings, and then run out and see what you attentions is drawn to in our fair city.

This exhibition is made possible by The Morgan Library & Museum, New York,

with additional support generously provided by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw  Charitable Trust.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Arthur E. and Hilda C. Landers        Charitable Trust.

—Will Harrington, St. John’s College Student (A20)