Curator’s Choice - Northern Vision #2

Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski looks at another highlight from the 'Northern Vision' exhibition of drawings from the Tchoban Foundation - one of the earliest drawings by Schinkel.


Schinkel's Watercolour - Study of a cloud and tree

For me, this drawing by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781 Neuruppin – 1841 Berlin), entitled: Study of a cloud and tree, page from a sketchbook, is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the historical. Schinkel’s work is amongst the finest expressions of neoclassicism in Northern Europe. Amongst his greatest buildings are the elegant Greek revival Neue Wache, the Altes Museum, both Berlin, and the innovative Bauakadime, (destroyed). Having initially studied under Friedrich Gilly, Schinkel was at the forefront of architectural training in Prussia. In 1799 he enrolled as one of the first students at the Architecture Academy, Berlin, and would later, in 1820, become a Professor of Architecture there. In this capacity, Schinkel undertook an official tour of Britain in 1826 to gain an insight into the new technologies of the industrial revolution – even visiting the Soane (which he did not really approve of!). This unfinished drawing – the earliest known in Schinkel’s hand –  although not strictly architectural, demonstrates the sixteen year olds precocious skill at observation. It forms part of a larger, influential grouping of landscape drawings of the area of Brandenburg, produced by Schinkel between 1797 and 1800.

Secondly, this is a wonderful evocation of a summer’s afternoon. Sitting here in my office, overlooking Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on a very hot summer’s afternoon,  I have a similar view of uninterrupted blue sky and the tops of trees. I can well imagine the young Schinkel in a field in Brandenburg in August 1797, his coat and breeches dusty from the road, pausing to sit down and paint this fragment of a scene. It remains unfinished. Was he interrupted or did he intend to return to it?  We probably will never know. All that we have is this wonderful little page, torn from his sketchbook.

Northern Vision: Master Drawings from the Tchoban Foundation runs from 21 June to 28 September in the Exhibition Gallery at Sir John Soane's Museum.  Featuring highlights from the collection of Europe's newest museum of architecture, the Tchoban Foundation in Berlin, as well as drawings by Sergei Tchoban illustrating his practice's interest in the continued use of architectural draughtsmanship.  Many of these drawings also reflect the distinctive and historical cityscapes of Berlin and Sergei Tchoban's native St Petersburg.

Posted on 03 September 2013 in Exploring Our Exhibitions
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