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Cartographica Helvetica


Franz Reitinger:

The Artist's earthly wanderings: a 'physical' map by Johann Karl Mare

Cartographica Helvetica 27 (2003) 13–26


The unusual career of Johann Karl Mare (1773–1835) serves to illustrate the development of Prussian cartography in the face of the institutional changes during and after the Napoleonic era. Mare was a Berlin resident of Huguenot extraction whose appointment as 'Professor of Cartographic Art' at the Art Academy in the year of Napoleon's invasion of Russia brought him many privileges as well as the envy of his fellow cartographers. Despite his loyalty to the House of Hohenzollern, however, his small masterpieces soon fell into oblivion after his death.

Mare's apparently secure position long had hidden the precarious existence of a specialist who, during his lifetime, underwent several significant changes in his professional perception. As an artist, Mare was subject to the decline of copper engraving brought about by the advent of lithographic presses and the establishment of early art printing houses. As a map engraver, he estranged from his colleagues when cartography ceased to be determined by the Prussian administration to which he had owed so much. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the military engineer as the cartographer's customary prototype was superseded by the scientifically trained geologist, now able to present his theories with great effect at the newly founded university of 'Unter den Linden' in Berlin.

At the same time, Mare's professorship at the Art Academy became an obstacle to those who advocated the claims to autonomy of art and science and called for their institutional separation. The contradictions in which Mare found himself owing to his position as an artist and a cartographer, in the end, seem to have fostered his predilection for hybrid forms of expression. His fondness for the allegorical enabled Mare to adopt Goethe's concept of 'The artist's life as earthly wanderings' and to extend it into the sphere of an emerging 'physical' cartography which then was in keeping with the times.

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