The art of the 19th century fills an expansive panorama covering the spectrum from Romanticism to Impressionism. In no other century do we find epoch-making achievements in art so closely allied with such innovative trends. Art an technology were like engines driving the earth-shaking changes that took place all over the world in early years of the modern era, a period that traces ist roots to the gradual demise of absolutist regimes in Europe beginning in the mid-18th century. Old monarchies declined more rapidly than new social systems could mature and replace them. The political crisis coincided with the end of the Age of Enlightenment, the fundamental principles of which would continue to influence the development of bourgeois society until well into the 19th century. The great upheavals that began in France had an almost immediate impact on German art.
The Staatsgalerie, whose own origins are traceable to the Hohe Carlsschule, a military academy founded by Duke Carl Eugen von Württemberg, now possesses a unique collection of southwest German neo-classical art, the most prominent representatives of which are the sculptor Johann Heinrich Dannecker and the painters Gottlieb Schick and Philipp Friedrich Hetsch. The remarkable features of their aesthetic concept, which is both pan-European and regional at the same time, are readily apparent in their sculptures, portraits and history paintings. Johann Heinrich Dannecker’s most significant work is the monumental bust of the poet Friedrich Schiller, whose »Ode to Joy« gained widespread fame in conjunction with Beethoven’s »Ninth Symphony«. Completed after Schiller’s death and intended as part of a Schiller monument, this marble sculpture exemplifies the new type of idealised image that emerged in the 19th century. Quite different, however, are the many spontaneous sculptural »sketches« in clay, planned for larger-format versions, only a few of which were actually executed. A noteworthy exception is Dannecker’s »Ariadne and the Panther« (1803), a work commissioned by the influential banker Bethmann in Frankfurt on the Main. The life-sized marble version (1812-1814) is one of the most famous sculptures of the penultimate century. An excellent replica can now be seen in the rotunda of the Neue Staatsgalerie.
It is not seldom that we find charm and wit in lieu of detached representational precision in Swabian neo-classical art, and history painting bears the imprint of a typical Protestant attitude that is by no means devoid of doctrinaire aspects. This tension contributed significantly to the appeal of Swabian neo-classicism, which continued to evoke positive resonance in both bourgeois and aristocratic circles into the 19th century. A strong contrast is evident in the massive Satan, »Touched by Ithuriel’s Sword« (1779) by the Swiss-English artist Johann Heinrich Füssli (Henry Fuseli), his monumental painting in London and the seminal work that paved the way for his grandest aesthetic undertaking, the Milton Gallery based upon works by the great English poet John Milton.
Romanticism, with its rejection of neo-classical principles, is represented in significant individual works of superior quality. Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Gustav Carus and Carl Blechen stand out in particular among those northern German artists who forged a new path towards the future. Worthy of particular note is Caspar David Friedrich’s »Bohemian Landscape«, a painstakingly conceived, richly symbolic composition based upon a number of separate studies. Romanticism and Neo-Classicism would remain the most important curents influencing German art at the beginning of the modern era. The influences of both are clearly apparent in a number of works, although they are often inseparably mixed. One of the leading representatives of this typically German form of idealism is Anselm Feuerbach. The Staatsgalerie possesses one of his first major works, a life-sized Iphigenia (1871), the idealised image of a Muse caught in the tragic dialectic between hope and melancholy. Similar in basic tenor is »Villa by the Sea« (1877) by the Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin, who rendered this once-famous pictorial theme in several different versions, each with different atmospheric qualities. The painting exhibited in Stuttgart is characterised by a mood of impending doom evoked by the darkness of an approaching storm.
Historically speaking, this style of painting belongs to the Gründerzeit, the period that spanned the first decades following the proclamation of German unity by the Emperor in 1871. The idea of a German nation united under a single monarch had far-reaching consequences for art. The imperial state promoted the growth of an official art - taught and practised at the great academies - supported to a significant degree by the pillars of patriotic fervour and nationalist sentiments. At the same time, countercurrents developed in the form of secessionist movements in Berlin and Munich. From the ranks of the Secessionists came such artists as Max Slevogt, Lovis Corinth, and Max Liebermann, painters who introduced a new, anti-academic impulse into modern art. The Staatsgalerie possesses a number of the most important works of these artists, including perhaps the most noteworthy of them all, Max Slevogt’s »The Champagne Song (The White d’Andrade)«. Full of fury and evidently influenced by French Impressionism, this painting is a portrait of the singer Francisco d’Andrade. He is dressed for his role as Don Giovanni in Mozart‘s opera and depicted at the moment of his greatest triumph. The vigorously expressive, vehemently rendered still lifes and the uncompromising portraits produced by these artists characterise the infancy of Expressionism, perhaps the best-known movement in early 20th-century German art.
The international character of the collection is underscored by the presence of French paintings. A number of mid-19th-century works by the Romanticist Eugène Delacroix and the Realist Gustave Courbet point the way to Camille Corot and the Barbizon School at the source of the Impressionist movement. In contrast to the works of German Neo-Classical and Secessionist artists, many of the Impressionist paintings in the collection, were not acquired until after World War II. One exception is Claude Monet’s »Fields in the Spring« (1887), a masterpiece of Impressionist art on exhibit at the Staatsgalerie since 1906. Edouard Manet’s portrait of his friend in a boat on the Seine, »Claude Monet in his Studio« (1874), is a powerful, albeit unfinished work. Other paintings from the early Impressionist period include Alfred Sisley’s serene compositions. The most exceptional of the portraits by Pierre Auguste Renoir is his »Madame Victor Choquet« (1875). Prominent examples of pre-1900 French painting are also to be found in Camille Pissarro’s sun-drenched painting »The Gardener« (1899), Paul Signac’s detached, stringently composed »Portrieux Harbour« (1888), and Edgar Degas’ subtly coloured »Billiard Room« (1892). Paul Cézanne’s »Bathers Outside a Tent« (c. 1880), the first of a major series devoted to that theme, was acquired in 1959 from the Moltzau Collection, which also provided the foundation for the collection of modern art at the Staatsgalerie. Completed during his first sojourn in Tahiti, Paul Gauguin’s »Where Are You Going?« is a milestone in his œuvre.
»Perseus Cycle« of Edward Burne-Jones. This serial work was commissioned by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour for the reception room of his London residence and completed between 1877 and 1887. Alongside William Morris, Burne-Jones was one of the most significant of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists committed to fundamental renewal in art. Although the »Perseus Cycle« was completed as a conceptual scheme, not all of the paintings were actually executed on canvas. The so-called „card-boards“, original-sized preliminary studies, most of them in colour, provide valuable insights into the methods employed by artists of the period.
Characteristic of the collection of the 19th-century art at the Staatsgalerie is the equally high quality of both its regional and international exhibits - the later represented most notably by fine examples of French and British art. The history of the holdings - their origins in royal collections of the 18th century, expansion through in the 19th century, royal gifts and continued growth through carefully considered acquisitions up to the immediate present - is reflected in both their extensive scope and the selective approach to presentation in the gallery spaces. [ CB ]
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