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The Cover
September 22/29, 2010

Moulting Ducks

JAMA. 2010;304(12):1300. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1188

During the late 18th and early 19th century, artistic portrayals of the Alps and other mountainous regions relied on Romantic associations of nature to impart meaning. Fueled by the philosophical writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, and Immanuel Kant, among others, the act of communing with and observing awesome natural scenery was thought akin to witnessing the sublime power of the divine. Matching images with ideas were artists who captured the majesty of both panoramic and precipitous views of mountain peaks and ravines. Yet by the time German artist Alexander Max Koester (1864-1932) reached his artistic maturity, the associative value of the Alps had diminished. When he approached the same environment he found his artistic inspiration in a more humble aspect of alpine scenery: the ducks that lived along its riverbanks and streams.

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