Solomon Gessner - Encyclopedia

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SOLOMON GESSNER (1730-1788), Swiss painter and poet, was born at Zurich on the 1st of April 1730. 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. He died on the 2nd of March 1788. The first of his writings that attracted attention was his Lied eines Schweizers an sein bewaffnetes Mddchen (1751). Then followed Daphnis (1754), Idyllen (1756 and 1772), Inkel and Yariko (1756), a version of a story borrowed from the Spectator (No. ii, 13th of March 1711) and already worked out by Gellert and Bodmer, and Der Tod Abels (1758), a sort of idyllic pastoral. It is somewhat difficult for us now to understand the reason of Gessner's universal popularity, unless it was the taste of the period for the conventional pastoral. His writings are marked by sweetness and melody, qualities which were warmly appreciated by Lessing, Herder and Goethe. As a painter Gessner represented the conventional classical landscape.

Collected editions of Gessner's works were repeatedly published (2 vols. 1777-1778, finally 2 vols. 1841, both at Zurich). They were translated into French (3 vols., Paris, 1786-1793), and versions of the Idyllen appeared in English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Bohemian. Gessner's life was written by Hottinger (Zurich, 1796), and by H. WOlfflin (Frauenfeld, 1889); see also his Briefwechsel mit seinem Sohn (Bern and Zurich, 1801).

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