Monday, March 5, 2012

German and Austrian portraits of the 1890s

Because this post is a round-up of disparate artists and styles, I'm not going to give more details about the artists than their dates of birth and death. Instead I want to concentrate on the varied ways in which they have tried to express the individual humanity of their subjects. As in my previous post on German landscape, all the examples are taken from the Leipzig art revue Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst. Although all are portraits, only one, the self-portrait of Hans Thoma, identifies its subject. The rest are presented as anonymous representative types, though often with a very powerful individual essence. 

Robert Raudner (1854-1910)
Kopf eines alten Mannes
Etching, 1892

A traditional approach for a traditional subject, in this strong depiction of a man who has known a life of hard work, and perhaps some disappointment.

Josef Damberger (1867-1951)
Am häuslichen Herd
Etching, 1894

This strongly-composed etching by Josef Damberger intrigues me. You get a real sense of family relationships and tensions in the group dynamics of the picture. The title means something like At the Domestic Hearth. The mother and daughter are there, with the child looking yearningly out of the picture, grandfather and grandmother are looking on, at an emotional remove from the others. Where is the father? This picture seems to pre-figure the stark social conscience of Expressionist artists such as Käthe Kollwitz

Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870-1928)
Holländisches Mädchen
Etching, 1896

I find the intimacy of some of these scenes very touching - especially Ferdinand Schmutzer's tenderly-observed Dutch girl, Bernhard Pankok's twilit mother and child, and, further down the post, Alfred Cossman's housewife quietly sat over her mending.

Bernhard Pankok (1872-1943)
Frau mit Kind
Mezzotint, 1898

Otto Rasch (1862-1952)
Unterbrochene Andacht
Lithograph, 1898

This old lady has been interrupted at her devotions, and she doesn't look best pleased about it.

Heinrich Wolff (1875-1940)
Etching, 1897

Heinrich Wolff (1875-1940)
Etching, 1898

Heinrich Wolff (1875-1940)
Mezzotint, 1899

I wonder if Heinrich Wolff's Studienkopf is, like Hans Thoma's etching below, a self-portrait; certainly his Porträt must be a recognisable figure, though I don't know which senior German artist this is.

Hans Thoma (1839-1924)
Etching, 1898

Alfred Cossmann (1870-1951)
Etching, 1899

Heinrich Reifferscheid (1872-1945)
Etching, 1898

Marie Stein (active in Paris 1899)
Etching, 1899

I haven't been able to find out anything about Marie Stein. Although she has a French first name, I think she was probably German. There's quite a bit of writing very faintly incised with a drypoint needle in the top left of the image, but I haven't been able to make any of it out, partly because it's all in reverse.

Paul Hey (1867-1952)
Etching, 1899

If the very first image in this post, Robert Raudner's old man, had a timeless quality, this fashionable woman by Paul Hey is the very image of 1890s femininity. I love the drama that the unusual upward-looking perspective gives this, as if the artist were lying on the ground looking up at her.

Georg Jahn (1869-1941)
Porträt einer alten Frau
Etching, 1900

The detail in this etching by Georg Jahn is quite incredible. You really feel that this kindly old lady might start speaking to you.

Hanns Fechner (1860-1931)
Lithograph, 1900

The lithographs by Hanns Fechner (above) and Rudolph Schulte im Hofe (below) both approach their subjects at an angle, allowing us the sense that we are observing someone who doesn't know that we are looking, and is lost in her own thoughts.

Rudolf Schulte im Hofe (1865-1928)
Lithograph, 1901

Hermann Struck (1876-1944)
Porträt eines alten Mannes
Etching, 1901

And last of all, Hermann Struck's magnificent etching of an elderly Jew, possibly the artist's father. There's a real sense of emotional connection here, and of the weight of history. "Next year in Jerusalem," seems to sum up his thoughts. Hermann Struck (born Chaim Aaron ben David) was himself an early settler in what was then Palestine, immigrating to Haifa in 1923.


Atelier Conti said...

Beautiful faces! I particularly became intrigued with the one by Stein with the backwards writing. I flipped it in Photoshop and was able to read a few of the words and determine that it is definitely in French. It starts with "Rien..." and I believe has something about manger. The last word may be "contend". It seems as if it may be a quote as there is a refernce at the end. It seems to say "Crom?da IV. H)". But it's a bit hard to make out as I had to increase its size beyond complete legibility to read it.

Neil said...

That was a clever thought, Nancy. I used to have Photoshop a couple of computers ago, but never really got to grips with it, and now make do with iPhoto, which I don't think allows you to flip a picture. Part of your problem may be that my photo isn't good enough, so I may try again! Nice to know that it's in French, at least, and I think you're right that it's probably a quotation. Aha! I've found a way to flip it. But it's so faint. I can definitely make out Rien, and what seems to be manger. And I think ce qu'il in the second line.

Roxana said...

oh how wonderful they are!

i am fascinated with the old woman, she has such a mysterious smile, one would say - as beautiful as Gioconda, why do i see a similarity there? maybe this is how she would have looked like, if Leonardo had painted her later in life...

Neil said...

Yes, Roxana, there's a whole lifetime of enigmatic experience in that face. I think the smile is as much in the eyes as the mouth, but I guess that's true of the Mona Lisa too.