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Jakob Ernst Marcus (Sint Eustatius 1774-1826 Amsterdam)

A collection of 45 etchings from the Studie-Prentwerk

various sizes, circa 15 x 21 cm
De Grebber [1], nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 21, 24, 26, 30, 37, 43, 44, 45, 46, 50, 51, 53, 56, 60, 72, 73, 74, 81, 83, 87, 96, all second states; nos. 16, 28, 35, 38, 62, 75, 95 first and second state
mostly with broad margins and in good condition, some of the sheets are somewhat discoloured and have some foxing, the sheets in otherwise in good condition

Art history seems to have been rather unfair to the generation of artists to which the talented draughtsman and printmaker Jacob Ernst Marcus belongs. While the artist and his contemporaries such as Albertus Brondgeest (1786-1849), Jean-Augustin Daiwaille (1786-1850) and Pieter Gerardus van Os (1776-1839), have been the subject of several publications by J. Knoef [2] and R.J. te Rijdt [3] and an exhibition on Marcus’ work was mounted in 1972, [4] these artists have otherwise received little (scholarly) attention despite the high quality of their prints, drawings and paintings.

For biographical details about Marcus’ life, we can conveniently turn to a letter, written by the artist himself in 1815 to Adriaan van der Willigen, in which he tells us about his life up to that date. [5] According to the letter, the artist was born in 1774 on Sint Eustatius and moved to Amsterdam at the age of nine, [6] where his father died a year later, leaving the young boy as an orphan. He first received drawing lessons from Steven Goblé (1749-1799) who advised Marcus’ guardian to have him trained as an artist due to the young boy’s talent for drawing. When 16 years old, Marcus decided to become an engraver and he was trained for six years by Reinier Vinkeles (1741-1816). His hard work was soon rewarded; in 1798 he received a golden medal from the Stads-Teekenakademie (drawing society) of Amsterdam. Soon after, in 1802, he co-founded a drawing society himself called Kunst zij ons doel. [7]

Marcus is best known, however, for his printed œuvre, and most importantly his Studie- prentwerk- a series of prints published between 1807 and 1816 (and later re-issued, after the artist’s death in 1834) which were sold to clients by subscription. The artist published one plate every month, and as he remarked himself in his letter from 1815, the subjects of these prints were drawn from life. [8] And indeed, the 105 prints from the series give an exceptionally fresh and varied insight into life in the early 19th century. We see children playing with a cart, artists at work, peasants working the land, soldiers drinking and so on. Often unfinished, yet highly worked out in other parts, these poetic scenes seem to echo those by artists from the German Romantic movement, whose prints are equally detailed, elegant and ornamented. Some of the most remarkable sheets from the Studie-prentwerk combine different subjects, loosely scattered on the sheet, floating freely on the blank page; a woman playing a guitar is juxtaposed to a boy pulling a rope and two portraits are shown with in the middle two toddlers scribbling on a sheet. Besides giving a wonderful insight in the (artistic) life of the early 19th century, the series stands out for its sheer size as well as its original and outstanding artistic quality.

[1] S. de Grebber, 'Etudes gravées', Amsterdam, 1834.
[2] J. Knoef, 'Tussen Rococo en Romantiek', The Hague, 1943; the article on Marcus had been
previously published in De Kunst der Nederlanden, no. 12, 1931, pp. 441-448.
[3] R.-J. te Rijdt, ‘Figuurstudies van het Amsterdamse tekengenootschap ‘Zonder Wet of Spreuk’ ca.
1808-1819’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, XXXVIII, 1990, no. 3, pp. 223-244.
[4] St. Eustatius 1774-1826 Amsterdam. Jacob Ernst Marcus. Graveur en Tekenaar., exhib. cat.,
Willemstad, Curaçaos Museum and elsewhere, 1972. 5 op. cit., pp. 7-9.
[6] R. van Eijnden and A. van der Willigen, 'Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw', Haarlem, 1830 [reprint, Amsterdam, 1979], vol. III, p. 179.
[7] R. van Eijnden and A. van der Willigen, 'op. cit.', p. 180.
[8] 'St. Eustatius 1774-1826 Amsterdam. Jacob Ernst Marcus. Graveur en Tekenaar.', Willemstad, Curaçaos Museum and elsewhere, 1972, p. 9; some prints, however, are after his contemporary Hendrik Willem Caspari (1770-1829).

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