|Born||1 April 1730
|Died||2 March 1788
|Known for||Painting, Poetry|
Solomon Gessner (1 April 1730 – 2 March 1788) was a Swiss painter and poet. His writing suited the taste of his time, though by some more recent standards it is “insipidly sweet and monotonously melodious.” As a painter, he represented the conventional classical landscape.
He was born in Zurich. With the exception of some time (1749-1750) spent in Berlin and Hamburg, where he came under the influence of Ramler and Hagedorn, he passed the whole of his life in his native town, where he carried on the business of a bookseller. The first of his writings that attracted attention was his Lied eines Schweizers an sein bewaffnetes Mädchen (Song of a Swiss to his armed maiden, 1751). Then followed Daphnis (1754), Idyllen (1756 and 1772), Inkel and Yariko (1756), a version of a story borrowed from The Spectator and already worked out by Gellert and Bodmer, and Der Tod Abels (1758), which Gessner called “a sort of idyllic prose pastoral.”
Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) puzzles over the reason for Gessner's universal popularity, and speculates that maybe it was the taste of the period for the conventional pastoral. Britannica notes that his writings are marked by sweetness and melody, qualities which were warmly appreciated by Lessing, Herder and Goethe. The New International Encyclopædia (1905) finds his writing “insipidly sweet and monotonously melodious,” and attributes Gessner's popularity to the taste of a generation nursed on Rousseau.
Collected editions of Gessner's works were repeatedly published (2 vols, 1777-1778, finally 2 vols., 1841, both at Zürich). They were translated into French (3 vols., Paris, 1786-1793), and versions of the Idyllen appeared in English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Czech and Serbian (by Georgije Magarašević, 1793-1830). In 1780 Gessner founded the Zürcher Zeitung (renamed Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 1821). Gessner's life was written by Johann Jakob Hottinger (Zürich, 1796), and by Heinrich Wölfflin (Frauenfeld, 1889); see also his Briefwechsel mit seinem Sohn (Correspondence with his son, Bern and Zürich, 1801). For Gessner's literary influence, see Texte, J. J. Rousseau and Literary Cosmopolitanism (New York, 1897).
- No. 11, 13 March 1711.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gessner, Solomon". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- "Gessner, Salomon". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
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