Three studies of a young Chimney Sweep
  • Carl Blechen
  • Cottbus 1798 - 1840 Berlin
  • Three studies of a young Chimney Sweep, ca. 1827
  • Pen and black ink over pencil, partly coloured wash, on brown paper
  • collector‘s mark Walther Unus (Lugt 3915) and old inscriptions on the verso
  • 270 × 374 mm
Walther E. Heinrich, called Unus, Berlin/Rome (1872-1939)
Gertrud Heinrich, Berlin (1940)
Ernst Heinrich, Nienburg (died 2008)
Gertrud Rudigier Fine Art, Munich
Paul Ortwin Rave: Karl Blechen, Leben – Würdigung – Werk, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1940, no. 634, ill. p. 236
Nationalgalerie, Berlin 1990: Carl Blechen. Zwischen Romantik und Realismus cat. no. 120, ill. p. 143

This unusual but important drawing in Carl Blechen’s oeuvre shows three portraits of a young boy who must, even at this young age, perform the hard labour of a chimney sweep. With black work clothes, a protective towel over their nose and mouth, and slip padding on their pants, young men – not only in Prussia – were regularly engaged in this kind of work, since they were still small enough to be able to slide through the flue shafts.

Here, Blechen depicts the same boy in three different positions and with various tools, as though he were on a stage – a type of collage made up of views familiar from other works by the artist as well. His selection of subjects probably had an artistic interest alone and is not an implicit social criticism; although Blechen was known for his furious oil studies and magnificent Italianising landscapes, he also always took a great interest in the arduous daily life of common people around him. Numerous studies of street musicians, coachmen, night watchmen, and other similar subjects attest to this rather unknown side of his artistic subject matter.

A second drawing featuring two pencil studies of a young chimney sweep in various perspectives exists in the collection of the National Gallery in Berlin.