Elsheimer, Adam ( 1578-1610 ) . German painter, etcher, and draftsman, active chiefly in Italy. Although he died immature and his end product was little he played a cardinal function in the development of 17th-century landscape picture.
He was born in Frankfurt, where he absorbed the Coninxloo tradition, and moved to Italy in 1598. In Venice he worked with his countryman Rottenhammer, so settled in Rome in 1600. His early Mannerist manner gave manner to a more direct mode in which he showed great sensitiveness to effects of visible radiation ; his nocturnal scenes are peculiarly original, conveying out the best in his lyrical disposition, and he is credited with being the first creative person to stand for the configurations of the dark sky accurately ( The Flight into Egypt, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 1609 ) . He painted a few images in which figures predominate, but by and large they are fused into a harmonious integrity with their landscape scenes. They are constantly on a little graduated table and on Cu ( the lone exclusion is a self-portrait in the Uffizi, Florence, of dubious ascription ) , but Al
though finely executed they have a magnificence out of all proportion to their size.
Elsheimer achieved celebrity during his life-time and there are legion modern-day transcripts of his plants. His pictures were engraved by his student and frequenter, the Dutch amateur creative person Count Hendrick Goudt ( 1573-1648 ) , and Elsheimer himself made a figure of etchings. In malice of his popularity he was personally unsuccessful and died in poorness. Sandrart says he suffered from melancholia and was frequently unable to work ; seemingly he was imprisoned for debt. Rubens was a friend of Elsheimer and after his decease lamented his `sin of sloth, by which he has deprived the universe of the most beautiful things ‘ ; he besides wrote `I have ne’er seen his equal in the kingdom of little figures, of landscapes, and of so many other topics. ‘
Both Rubens ( Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel ) and Rembrandt ( National Gallery, Dublin ) made pictures of The Flight into Egypt inspired by Elsheimer ‘s chef-d’oeuvre, and his influence is evident in the work of many other 17th-century creative persons.