The bay of Naples in the moonlight, 1886
Oil on paper laid down on panel, H. 0.24 m; W. 0.317 m
Monogrammed and dated lower right: OA 1886.
Provenance: Private collection, Germany.
Oswald Achenbach and his elder brother Andreas were the leading artists of the Düsseldorf school, were they taught at the local Academy. They renewed landscape painting in Germany by drifting away from Romanticism towards a less meticulous style, always searching for impressive effects of light and colour.
From the 1860s on Oswald Achenbach’s fame kept on growing and his success was more and more international. He was elected member of the Academies of Vienna, Rotterdam and Saint-Petersburg and his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, Vienna, New York, Chicago and Cincinnati. Achenbach was passionate about Italy and travelled there as often as he could. Most of his pictures show Italian landscapes. He was particularly fond of the south, specially the region of Naples.
The present oil sketch depicts a nocturnal view of the bay of Naples, showing fishermen around a fireplace on the beach, with moonlight reflecting on the water and the Vesuvius in the background. His spontaneous, loose brushwork and his love of colour are a testimony to his virtuosity as a painter. Achenbach used to obtain strong impressions by applying vivid colour spots with his fingers or a spatula. This oil sketch done on paper has probably been carried out on the spot. Its liberty of execution is quite close to the avant-garde movements of his time whereas the finished picture remains in the more conventional taste of his clients.