Alexandre Calame, edited by A. Schreiber-Favre. 52 pages, with 75 photo-engravings, 4 heliochromes, 8 polychromes, and lithograph-portrait of the artist. Preface by Charles Gos. Geneva, 1934.
Alexandre Calame was born in Geneva in 1810. A true Romantic, he turned to Nature—with a capital ‘N’—for inspiration. When he went, as young man, to study in Paris, he met with instant success, was recognized in the Salons, carrying off not only first prizes, but also the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Strangely enough, to us at least, the Classic painters had considered that mountains as scenery were horribly ugly. The Romanticists were the first to open men’s eyes to the beauties of the hills. Calame had few forerunners in this particular field. He was one of the founders of the national (Genevese) school of painting. Historically, Geneva had just been delivered from occupation by the French troops on the one hand, and the Austrians on the other. The major part of Calame’s paintings were consecrated to Alpine scenery. His favorite subject is the tumbling torrent, milky with foam, cascading between great rocks and flanked by rugged pines—trees which he treated after the manner of Ruysdael. One might criticize his work as being too meticulous, too theatrical. But he was master of lithography and etching, arts which had been at that time practically abandoned by painters in Paris. Art was to him a religion, what a modern art critic would call “a weak escape from life.” But, if he did not make a photographic portrait of well-known peaks, even if he did not deal in the stark expressionism of today, his works represent rather the glorification of light and shadow, of a landscape dreamed and composed like a symphony.
G. I. F.-G.