Johann Falch

A forest floor still life

Johann Falch was born in Augsburg in 1687. Little is known about his life. He was taught by the relatively unknown painter Johann Christoph Beischlag. In 1709 he became a master in the Augsburg guild of St Luke; he would remain active there for the rest of his life. Falch taught at least one pupil, the draughtsman Johann Elias Ridinger. Stylistically, he was a follower of Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton and Otto Marseus van Schrieck, who pioneered the genre of the bosgrondje, or forest floor still life. Falch’s oeuvre consists solely of such still lifes.

The Dutch artist Otto Marseus van Schrieck (c. 1619 – 1678) was inspired to develop the theme of the forest-floor still life during his sojourn in Italy in the 1650s. His paintings of this subject, featuring reptiles, snails, butterflies and plants such as thistles, commanded a substantial following, not only in the Netherlands, but also abroad. The painting presented here belongs to a fairly large group, the majority of which was traditionally attributed to the Flemish-German painter Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton (1668 – 1754).

Recently, though the appearance of a number of signed works, it has became clear that many of the paintings in this group – including the present works – were done by Johann Falch from Augsburg, who probably worked with de Hamilton in that city. Marseus had developed a technique to press the pigments of butterfly wings into the wet white ground of his paintings for a natural result. The bodies of the butterflies and the outer surface of the wings were painted. Many of his followers adopted that technique, including de Hamilton and Falch, as can be seen here, but as usual, unfortunately little of the original butterfly pigments remain. The leaves of the plants in these paintings will originally have been greener, since of top of the blue, the artist applied a transparent, yellow-green glaze which was probably lost in cleaning early in their existence.

Artist: Johann Falch (Augsburg 1687 - 1727)
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 29 x 20,5 cm