This little rill, that from the springs
Of yonder grove its current brings,
Plays on the slope awhile,
And then goes prattling into groves again,
Oft to its warbling waters drew
My little feet, when life was new.
When woods in early green were drest,
And from the chambers of the west
The warmer breezes, travelling out,
Breathed the new scent of flowers about…
—William Cullen Bryant, “The Rivulet”
A native of Germany, Paul Weber studied in Frankfurt before immigrating to America in 1848 at the age of 25. He settled in Philadelphia where he worked as a painter of landscapes and portraits. A year after his arrival, he began exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and remained a frequent exhibitor throughout his life. Weber taught such notable artists as Edward Moran, William Trost Richards, and William Stanley Haseltine. In 1857, he toured Scotland and Germany and in 1860 returned to his hometown of Darmstadt where he became the court painter to the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. Known for his tightly drawn compositions, Weber adapted his early lessons in German-style painting to his American landscapes.
He later returned to Philadelphia where he continued to exhibit his works in such notable venues as the National Academy of Design, Washington Association of Art, and the Boston Athenaeum among many others. Weber’s paintings can currently be seen at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York; Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania; and the Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, California.
Referring to Weber’s strongest essays, John Driscoll notes in the exhibition catalogue All That Is Glorious Around Us, “Weber’s best works eschew the hard edge, and with a combination of orderly composition, soft palette, and reserved draughtsmanship, he achieves a unique interpretation of the American landscape.” Exemplifying both this softening effect and clarity of spatial organization, Mountain Pools is a classic example of his idyllic, Pre-Raphaelite-inspired landscapes. It exhibits the most winning features of the artist’s design: a crisp, dramatic division of the landscape elements; a brilliantly infused atmosphere; and a tender attention to detail. The composition takes on a majestic air in the great rise of the mountain at left and the diagonal trajectory of the evergreen, in the left foreground, that pierces through the air into the distance. The clear blue stream, reflecting the bright billowy sky above, makes a wide and coursing path through picturesque obstacles. The lovely definition bestowed upon the delicate flora, particularly the pink wildflower in the right foreground, shows the artist’s precise German training and an adoption of Ruskin’s “truth to Nature” doctrine.