Max Roeder (1866 - 1947)


This etching was found hidden behind another work and discovered by taking the frontal print (below) out of its frame for cleaning. It served as backing board for an aquatint etching by Italian painter and etcher Lionello Balestrieri. It was originally married to the frame, and created by German-Italian painter and etcher Max Roeder and bought as shop daughter (leftover stock) from a befriended pre-used art dealer.   

Besides a very nice etching and the discovery of a new-to-me artist it also brought me the title for this exhibition pavilion: my collection of works showing the natural beauty of women represented and disguised as nymphs, goddesses and Naides. 

A Nymphaeum is place where the nymphs are at home, a secluded place to relax and enjoy, to meet and read. They were originally designed in ancient Greece to store water but the idea, exported to Rome, became a popular garden design ornament also used as ceremonial and marriage sites. They adorned the gardens and villa’s of Roman Emperors but are also found in Northern Africa and the middle East and later at the Papal villa’s. Max Roeder, of whom we know very little, besides his arcadian Italian and Tuscany landscape paintings, after his studies at the age of 20 travelled to Rome settling in 1888. He painted many of Rome’s and Tuscany’s antique villa’s (d’Este, Falconieri, Borghese etc…)  

His prints (etchings) were bought and collected in the Italian  National Prints Collection (“Gabinetto nazionale della stampa”) by its director influential Federico Hermanin von Reichenfeldt. So not a bad catch, a small treasure and pleasure to have it in my private Nymphaeum collection. 

Roeders painting “Seerosenteich” (lilly pond) of a Nymphaeum was exhibited in 1901 Berlin “Großer Berliner Kunstausstellung”. He also created an etching after his painting that was reproduced using a a photomechanical process known as “Heliogravure” or “Photogravure” a method invented by Joseph Nièpce (1765-1833) and basically the birth of modern photography.  

The printer, the Leipzig firm of Hermann Giesecke and Alphonse Devrient was founded in 1852 as specialist banknote printers.

Lionello Balestrieri (1872 - 1958)

This landscape aquatint etching by Naples painter and graphic artist Lionello Balestrieri (1872-1958) was caught and bought in a charity shop. In the 1920-30’s this technique became hugely popular resulting in large amounts of mediocre mainly landscape prints purely for decoration purposes: colourful and affordable. In the hands of talented artists however fine, even exquisite examples still can be found amidst the rubbish. Balestrieri has a very interesting oeuvre and biography. The discovery of Max Roeder’s Nymphaeum, a print that probably will also be kept and preserved in Italy’s national print collection in Rome’s Palazzo Corsini is the reward of collecting passionately and following ones own taste, collecting wisdom and, not unimportant: some budget. The history of this ensemble, why they were kept together, is lost in time. It is not impossible both artists may have been acquainted or even friends ……    

No 61. “le Retour” (Going home)

The “provenance” of this Arcadian aquatint etching and its hidden companion is unknown and probably will remain a mystery. There are hoards of prints like this floating around in car boots, charity and junk shops. 

Without being pretentious: many are of little or  mediocre artistic value and the sheer numbers sometimes even depressing. However in every pile or stack of old prints treasures may be hidden. The trick is to develop good taste (unless you are born with it), invest in and study literature about the early days and pioneers of modern printmaking. Writing my own short biographies of the artist I have selected to be part of my personal collection, condensing the result of my research into the lives of the artists involved also greatly contributed to my art hunting skills.

Lionello Balestrieri’s interesting short biography can be found in Volume 2. He was well trained in Italy and moved, aged 20 to Paris attracted by the Bohemian art scene. He stayed for many years, I suppose picking up this technique of printmaking by colleagues like Mauel Robbe,  eventually moving back to Naples in Italy and ending his life where it had begun. During his life he was well acquainted with many of the great Italian composers, creating their portraits in etching. In the lower right corner I found I small blind stamp: Epreuve Artiste - Bruxelles.  

At the cost of a well spend 10€ this acquisition not only presented two works of art of pretty decent artisticity and quality but also kept me busy on a rainy day, learning about the Greek and the Roman emperors, their gardens, nymphs, two “new” (to me) artists and writing two interesting short biographies. Not a bad deal.