Verdi’s Luisa Miller marks the beginning of his middle period of work, and is a transposition of Schiller’s play Intrigue and Love. In many ways Verdi’s interest in adapting Shiller’s work so that his opera focussed more on bourgeois hypocrisy than aristocratic despotism and control, makes it a precursor to similar themes developed further in La Traviata. In my woodcut Luisa and Rodolfo, daughter of a retired soldier and son of a local count, are seen naked without the trappings of their social status. Their love for each other transcends class and any worldly possessions. Meanwhile, two of the schemers in the narrative, Count Walter and his niece Federica Duchess of Ostheim, are looking on scathingly, dressed in their aristocratic finery. It’s not going to end well.
In my woodcut I wanted to try and find a way of conveying the innocence of Luisa and Rodolfo and I felt it would be good to have them in a grove or secluded spot like a lovelorn Krishna and Radha in an Indian miniature painting. Instead, while drawing in The National Gallery just after lockdown, I came across Degas’ fresh earlyish painting of Bathers in the Sea at Dusk, c. 1875-6. And then all of a sudden the lovers I needed were in front of me!