J W von Goethe – The Sorrows of Young Werther,1774


July 24,1771

Since you so concerned that I should not neglect my drawing, I would prefer to say nothing at all about the question than to admit how little I have done of late.

I have never felt happier, and my feelings for Nature, down to tiny pebbles and blades of grass, have never been so full and acute, and yet – I do not know how to express myself; my imaginative powers are so weak, and everything slides and shifts before my soul, so that I cannot grasp the outlines; but I fancy I might make a go of it if I had some clay or wax to model. If things are like this much longer I really shall get some clay and model it, even if all I produce is dumplings!

I have started on a portrait of Lotte three times, and three times I have failed disgracefully; which depresses me all the more since I could take a very good likeness not so long ago. So then I cut a silhouette profile of her, and that will have to do.

goethe 1 J W von Goethe. 1749-1832. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, 1774  The Sorrows of Young Werther

© Translation by Michael Hulse,1989. Penguin Classics, 1989


Silhouette of Charlotte Sophie Henriette Buff, 1753-1828, the model for Lotte in The Sorrows of Young Werther. © Bildatlas zur Geschichte der Deutschen Nationalliteratur by Gustav Koennecke.

Georg Melchior Kraus, 1737-1806. Goethe mit der silhouette. ©Goethe Haus, Frankfurt

Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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