August Kopisch, The Pontine Marshes at Sunset, 1848. Oil on canvas, 62 x 111 cm, National Museums in Berlin - National GalleryPhoto: Andres Kilger

BERLIN.- In this exhibition on the work of August Kopisch (1799–1853), Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie focuses on one of the most versatile nineteenth century artists. Like nobody else, the Breslau-born artist combined painting, poetry, and the spirit of discovery and invention. He first made a name for himself as the discoverer of the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri, since then a popular tourist destination. As a painter, Kopisch created works of their very own poetic brilliance, using a magical blue or a sumptuous twilight red to depict light phenomena in an impressive way. One of his many literary achievements was a brilliant translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. But his greatest claim to fame is the poem “Die Heinzelmännchen,” still beloved today. 


August Kopisch, Etna from the ruins of the theater in Taormina at sunset, 1834. Oil on canvas, 41.5 x 82 cmPrivate property. Photo: Horst Ziegenfusz

Kopisch already took instruction in drawing as a young boy. He left his hometown at age 15 to study at the art academy in Prague, continuing his studies of painting in Vienna and later in Dresden. He travelled to Italy in 1824, spending a year in Rome and arriving in Naples in the spring of 1826. The southern landscape and Neapolitan life inspired him to folkloric poetry, translations, and paintings intense with color. In 1829, Kopisch returned to Breslau, where he created a pleorama of the Gulf of Naples with Carl Ferdinand Langhans in 1831. In 1833, he moved to Berlin, where he surrounded himself with poets, scholars, and artists, consorting with the likes of Alexander von Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and Crown Prince Frederick William, who named him an official art consultant after his coronation in 1840, awarding him a pension in 1841. During his Berlin years, Kopisch published important works and showed his painting regularly at academy exhibitions.


August Kopisch, The Blue Grotto in Capri, about 1834. Oil on canvas, 30 x 39 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg. Photo: Wolfgang Pfauder

n five rooms, the exhibition presents over 40 paintings and drawings and around 80 additional objects, including inventions like the so-called “fast furnace,” musical settings, letters, publications, and illustrations, are presented to testify to Kopisch’s wide variety of work. The show begins with the discovery of the Blue Grotto and numerous paintings by Kopisch and his counterparts. The exhibition continues with Kopisch’s studies, his stay in Italy, his painting, and his writing, culminating with an installation that takes the visitor on a fictional boat trip along the Gulf of Naples.


August Kopisch, The crater of Vesuvius with the outbreak of 1828, 1828. Gouache with black ink on vellum paper, 20.1 x 30.8 cm. Private Collection. Photo: Norbert Miguletz


August Kopisch, A ship on the sea of ​​dolphins swarmed, 1826-28. Oil on canvas, 20.5 x 34 cm. Berlin State Museums, National Gallery. Photo: Andres Kilger


August Kopisch, Sicilian coast, 1852. Oil on canvas, 93 x 104 cm. Landtag of Hessen - Wiesbaden City Palace. Photo: Andres Kilger


August Kopisch, The large fountain in Sanssouci with different lighting, 1845. Oil on paper, diameter 17 cm respectively. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg. Photo: Wolfgang Pfauder


Joseph Führich, Portrait of August Kopisch, 1829. Etching a photogravure in the portrait collection "Corpus Imaginum" by Franz Hanfstaengl, size 25 x 19 cm; Blattmaß 45.1 x 33.2 cm. Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage, Manuscripts Department. Photo: Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage



August Kopisch, Musa's curse and the transformation of the young men, 1818. Watercolor on paper, 32.5 x 45.5 cm © Vienna City Library. Photo: Vienna City Library


August Kopisch, Two male heads. Pen and brown ink on paper, 4.5 x 7.4 cm. National Museums in Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett. Photo: Dietmar Katz.


Leopold Kupelwieser, August Kopisch, 1818. Pencil on paper, 20.5 x 12.7 cm. Wien Museum. Photo: Stiegler / Massard


August Kopisch, Quick-furnace cast clawfoot, c.1835. Cast iron, 42.2 x 19 cm. Make the K. u. K. Eisenguß Waaren Factory Joseph gloss, Vienna. Technisches Museum Wien. Photo: Peter Sedlaczek