1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dies, Christoph Albert

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DIES, CHRISTOPH ALBERT (1755-1822), German painter, was born at Hanover, and learned the rudiments of art in his native place. For one year he studied in the academy of Dusseldorf, and then he started at the age of twenty with thirty ducats in his pocket for Rome. There he lived a frugal life till 1796. Copying pictures, chiefly by Salvator Rosa, for a livelihood, his taste led him to draw and paint from nature in Tivoli, Albano and other picturesque places in the vicinity of Rome. Naples, the birthplace of his favourite master, he visited more than once for the same reasons. In this way he became a bold executant in water-colours and in oil, though he failed to acquire any originality of his own. Lord Bristol, who encouraged him as a copyist, predicted that he would be a second Salvator Rosa. But Dies was not of the wood which makes original artists. Besides other disqualifications, he had necessities which forced him to give up the great career of an independent painter. David, then composing his Horatii at Rome, wished to take him to Paris. But Dies had reasons for not accepting the offer. He was courting a young Roman whom he subsequently married. Meanwhile he had made the acquaintance of Volpato, for whom he executed numerous drawings, and this no doubt suggested the plan, which he afterwards carried out, of publishing, in partnership with Méchan, Reinhardt and Frauenholz, the series of plates known as the Collection de vues pittoresques de l’Italie, published in seventy-two sheets at Nuremberg in 1799. With so many irons in the fire Dies naturally lost the power of concentration. Other causes combined to affect his talent. In 1787 he swallowed by mistake three-quarters of an ounce of sugar of lead. His recovery from this poison was slow and incomplete. He settled at Vienna, and lived there on the produce of his brush as a landscape painter, and on that of his pencil or graver as a draughtsman and etcher. But instead of getting better, his condition became worse, and he even lost the use of one of his hands. In this condition he turned from painting to music, and spent his leisure hours in the pleasures of authorship. He did not long survive, dying at Vienna in 1822, after long years of chronic suffering. From two pictures now in the Belvedere gallery, and from numerous engraved drawings from the neighbourhood of Tivoli, we gather that Dies was never destined to rise above a respectable mediocrity. He followed Salvator Rosa’s example in imitating the manner of Claude Lorraine. But Salvator adapted the style of Claude, whilst Dies did no more than copy it.