|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data
compared to the extensive information about American artists.|
Johan Heinrich Roos was the most important German animalier of the 17th century; his realistic views of cattle, goats and sheep in the gentle sunshine of southern landscapes were much copied in Germany and Holland until the early 19th century.
His family left their home in the Palatinate c. 1637, fleeing the Thirty Years War, and moved to Amsterdam c. 1640. There, Roos trained (1647–51) in history painting with Guilliam Dujardin (1597–after 1647), in landscape with Cornelis de Bie and in portraiture with Barent Graat. However, the younger Italian-inspired landscape painters Nicolaes Berchem and Karel Dujardin were to prove more influential on Roos’s development of the pastoral idyll.
He left Amsterdam in 1651–2; in 1653 he was working in Mainz, and from 1654 to 1659 he was employed at the court of Landgrave Ernest of Hesse in Rheinfels, where he painted a portrait of A Prince (1654, Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt), religious scenes (1655; now destroyed) for the castle chapel and the first pastoral idylls. After 1659 Roos painted further portraits in the Palatinate and Mainz, before becoming court painter in 1664 to Charles Ludwig, Elector of the Palatinate, in Heidelberg. Because of unsatisfactory working conditions there he moved to Frankfurt am Main in 1667, where he soon established himself.
He died from injuries sustained when his house caught fire.
Roos painted mainly what are known as pastoral idylls, pictures of herdsmen and livestock in idealized southern landscapes scattered with ancient ruins: over 200 are known, dating from 1657–8 to the year of his death. The beasts’ bodies acquire a three-dimensional reality in the glittering sunshine, occupying the foreground in a rich variety of patterns; the family tending their stock rest at a side or on raised ground. Rocks, clumps of trees, ruins and streams lead into a hilly Italian landscape. Roos obviously used engravings as a source for both the appearance of the Campagna landscape and the ruins (e.g. of the temples to Jupiter and Vespasian, or the Ponte Molle in Rome).
These pastoral idylls demonstrate the longing for a harmonious bond linking men and animals with nature, after the devastation caused by the Thirty Years War. They develop from close-focus pictures framed by ruins, rocks and clumps of trees to views of livestock in front of broad, steeply tiered landscapes, from sizes of 600×800 mm or less to 1.35×2 m. I n several Roos inserted himself or his portrait subjects as herdsmen.
Among biblical, historical and genre scenes Roos preferred subjects involving animals: the shepherds of the nativity, Abraham’s exodus to Egypt (with dromedaries), Venus and Adonis, an army camp with horsemen etc. Roos was also one of the finest German portrait painters of his time, showing his sitters mainly half-length, where clothes and gestures could effectively underline the expression. Although his sitters included princes, noble ladies and officers, he painted chiefly the Frankfurt middle classes (c. 40 known portraits). Self-portraits (1665, Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum.; 1682, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.) show a self-confident artist.
Roos worked from numerous individual drawings (main collection, Vienna, Albertina), especially of domestic animals. In these he intensified the individuality of each species to the utmost. The drawings start to have an independent status only from c. 1661. For preference Roos drew with red chalk. His 39 etchings depict animals; four series date from 1663–4 (b. nos 32–8), 1665 (nos 10–17), c. 1668 (nos 18–30) and 1671 (nos 1–9).
Roos is represented in the following collections: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Crocker Art Museum, California; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, amongst others.
Sphinx Fine Art
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|