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The Castle at Stolzenfels, Germany

Not on view

The Castle at Stolzenfels, Germany

Artist: John W. Casilear (American, 1811-1893)

Date: 1842
Medium: Graphite and white gouache on tan-colored, medium-weight wove paper
Overall: 7 3/4 × 11 7/8in. (19.7 × 30.2cm)
Inscribed: Recto, lower center (graphite): "Castle of Stolzenfels, August_26th" Verso, upper left (graphite): "40" Upper right (green ink): "Gerry[?]. No. 7"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 88.55.2
Text Entries

In the spring of 1840 Casilear traveled to London with Thomas P. Rossiter, John F. Kensett, and Asher B. Durand. At this time Casilear was working as an engraver; it would be more than a decade before he abandoned printmaking to pursue painting full time.

Three years later, when Casilear returned to the United States, he brought home “a good number of original sketches.”(1) Presumably, one of these was the MWPI drawing, which he made the previous summer near the German city of Koblenz when he was traveling down the Rhine River. Choosing a vantage point at the water’s edge, Casilear delineated in meticulous detail the crenellated towers and battlements of Stolzenfels Castle, situated on a knoll above a small village on the opposite side of the river. He used a similar painstaking technique for the two boats at the right but drew the foreground trees, rocks, and riverbank in a slightly looser style.

 Stolzenfels Castle was built in the thirteenth century and was restored between 1835 and 1839 by the architect Carl Frederick Schinkel for the recently crowned Prussian king, Frederick William IV.(2) A contemporary guidebook noted, “Of all the castles on the Rhine this enjoys the finest situation. The prospect from thence is most beautiful. . . . At the foot of the castle is the village of Capellen, with a new and finely situated church.”(3)

William Dunlap praised Casilear’s draftsmanship as early as 1834 when he noted that Casilear was Asher B. Durand’s pupil.(4) The MWPI drawing is virtually an illustration of Durand’s advice to aspiring young artists to “take pencil and paper . . . and draw with scrupulous fidelity the outline or contour of such objects as you shall select.”(5)


1. G. W. Sheldon, “John W Casilear, “ in American Painters: With Eighty-three Examples of Their Work Engraved on Wood (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879), 155. Some of the drawings Casilear made during his European trip are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College; and the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman, New York City

2. Schinkel im Rheinland (Dusseldorf: Stadtmuseum, 1991), 128-35. I am grateful to Professor Rand Carter, Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y., for telling me about this catalog.

3. Frederick William Delkeskamp, Notes to the New Panorama of the Rhine from Mentz to Cologne (Frankfurt on the Main, 1847), as quoted in John Paul Driscoll, John F. Kensett Drawings (University Park, Pa.: Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, 1978), 36.

In 1845 John F. Kensett made a drawing of Stolzenfels. See John Paul Driscoll and John K. Howatt, John Frederick Kensett: An American Master (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), fig. 23. For an 1856 drawing of the castle by William T. Richards see Linda S. Ferber, “Never At Fault” : The Drawings of William T. Richards (Yonkers, N.Y.: The Hudson River Museum of Westchester, 1986), fig. 31.

4. William Dunlap, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (New York: George P. Scott and Co., 1834; reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1969), 2: 469.

5. A[sher] B. Durand, “Letters on Landscape Painting. Letter II,” The Crayon 1 (January 17, 1855): 34.



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