Ernst Fries (1801-1833), Tempio delle Minerva Medica, 1826, Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour, 260 x 255 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 1900, bequest of Cleophea Schlemmer, née Lindheimer.
Max Liebermann (1847-1935), Six Dutch Girls, Sewing, in front of the Wall of a House, ca. 1887, Black and white chalk, 270 x 365 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1892 from the artist.
Wilhlem von Kobell (1766-1853), Horse Market, 1802, Watercolour over pencil, 395 x 517 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1817 as an endowment from Johann Georg Grambs (1756-1817).
Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), Study for 'Company at Table' with cello player, 1871, Pencil, 200 x 240 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1908 at auction from F. A. C. Prestel, Frankfurt a. M.
Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Crouching Mother Pressing Her Child to Her Bosom, 1899, Black chalk and charcoal, 402 x 362 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann – Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012, Acquired in 1910 from Galerie Thannhauser, Munich.
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), Jacob and Rachel at the Fountain, 1820, Brush and brown ink over red chalk and pencil, 568 x 458 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1887 as a gift from Hermann von Mumm, Sr.
Franz Kobell (1749-1822), High Rock Cave with Antique Monuments and a Goatherd, ca. 1790, Brush and brown and black ink over pencil, 233 x 185 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Collection of Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816).
Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908), The Flea, 1862, Pencil, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 1933, endowment from the bequest of Hugo Kessler, Frankfurt a. M.
Frankfurt am Main
The Liberation of Sight
The Art of Drawing from Kobell to Corinth from the Städel Museum
March 8-May 28, 2012
In the exhibition The Liberation of Sight: The Art of Drawing from Kobell to Corinth from the Städel Museum, the Städel Department of Prints and Drawings is now presenting German drawings of the 19th century. The Städel Museum’s rich collection of drawings from that period are featured in a selection of some 100 outstanding works by 52 artists. The selection mirrors the entire breadth and diversity of the Prints and Drawings Department holdings from that multifaceted epoch, which encompassed such widely differing styles as Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Naturalism and Realism and even the beginnings of Modernism. The spectrum ranges from such artists as Wilhelm von Kobell, Josef Anton Koch, Carl Philipp Fohr, Carl Blechen, Carl Rottmann, Carl Morgenstern, Moritz von Schwind, Hans von Marées, Wilhelm Leibl, Adolf von Menzel, Max Liebermann and Wilhelm Busch to those already quite modernist in their approaches, for example Max Klinger, Ferdinand Hodler, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Lovis Corinth and Käthe Kollwitz. At the same time, the show spans the various forms of graphic production from the sketchbook page, the preliminary study for a painting and the large-scale fresco cartoon to the highly developed and coloured drawing conceived as an artwork in its own right.
The two-year research work on this project was sponsored by the Stiftung Gabriele Busch-Hauck, Frankfurt am Main.
The particular abundance of 19th-century drawings from the German-speaking regions in the holdings of the Städel Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings is closely linked with the history of the museum’s collecting activities. A proportion of the drawings already belonged to the personal collection of Johann Friedrich Städel, who founded the museum in 1815. Städel’s individual interest was directed more towards draughtsmanship of the sixteen and seventeenth centuries, but the museum owes its extensive inventory of drawings by Franz Kobell, for example, to the fact that Städel’s collecting passion did not stop at his contemporaries. In the decades until 1860,
Museum directors such as Philipp Veit and Johann David Passavant enriched the holdings through the addition of prominent contemporary drawings. Both were painters themselves and cultivated personal relationships to many leading artists of the first half of the 19th century. Drawing from their intimate understanding of contemporary art — which went hand in hand with a strong sense of quality — they acquired drawings today considered key works of the period in question, both artistically and conceptually.
Above and beyond widely known works, the show also aims to draw the public’s attention to less well-known drawings of this epoch. A number of the examples are indicative of another of the Städel Museum’s special qualities as an institution. Johann Friedrich Städel not only bequeathed his art collection and library to the people of Frankfurt, but also initiated the establishment of the Städelschule as an academy of contemporary art affiliated with the foundation. A substantial number of the artists represented in the exhibition were associated with the Städelschule as pupils or teachers, among them Philipp Veit, Moritz von Schwind, Victor Müller, Otto Scholderer and Louis Eysen.
The qualitative breadth of the Städel Museum holdings is reflected not only in connections with the region and the collection’s eventful history, but also in the fact that these holdings encompass representatives of the 19th century’s most important art centres in the German-speaking part of the world: Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Munich and Vienna. Wilhelm von Kobell’s meticulous and splendidly colourful market scenes rendered in watercolour, Carl Philipp Fohr‘s romantic landscapes, the strongly contour-oriented compositions by the Nazarenes as well as the large-scale cartoons they executed for their ambitious fresco projects — the variety of intentions and possibilities pursued by artists in the 19th century could hardly have been greater. The landscape details by Carl Morgenstern or Ernst Fries (Scattered Boulders and Stunted Tree Trunk), the caricature-like depictions by Wilhelm Busch and the striking portraits by such widely different artists as Friedrich Olivier and Fritz von Uhde are just a few of the many extremes.
The diversity of the selection serves to document the changes taking place in the art of draughtsmanship with regard not only to its purpose, but also to its means of expression. A hazy, dream-like landscape by Blechen is impetuously juxtaposed with a three-dimensionally conceived figure by Hans von Marées; an interior rendered with dissolved contours in painterly manner by Wilhelm Leibl encounters a portrait by Stauffer-Berns which betrays its maker’s preoccupation with photography.
Draughtsmanship was awarded a new and higher status in the 19th century. Above all artists of the first half of this era admired the pencil as a means of expression which “cannot be hard enough, cannot be sharp enough” (Adrian Ludwig Richter). They strove to condense the entire content, the entire meaning of the motif in the line, to dematerialize the motif and elevate it to a higher realm.
Against the background of a narrowly conceived academic training system, the century in question clearly bears the marks of the artists’ efforts to liberate themselves. Draughtsmanship was an area in which they could try out new ideas and approaches. Joseph Anton Koch, for example, fled from the corset of the Hohe Karlsschule in Stuttgart to Rome, where he introduced several generations of German artists to the study of landscape out of doors, directly in front of the motif. Ferdinand Olivier, like his fellow artists among the Nazarenes, turned away from the Neoclassicist-oriented academy in Vienna to seek a teacher for his delicate, metallically linear landscapes in Early German art. The Nazarenes in Rome renounced the themes of Neoclassicist art — primarily Greek and Roman mythology — and strove for society’s religious renewal through their art. They recorded their monumental Christian pictorial programmes in large-scale cartoons which, as drawn versions of the frescoes, were particularly admired and carefully preserved.
Illustration, caricature and the arabesque are to be recognized in our context as forms of drawing unique to this epoch. In a manner previously unheard of, an entertaining, decorative and amusing facet was now permitted, which often concealed a deeper meaning beneath its surface (Cornelius’s Faust illustrations, Ludwig Richter’s fairy tale illustrations, Wilhelm Busch’s picture stories).
From the middle of the century onward, the drawing acquitted itself of its duty to transport Biblical, literary or other narrative elements. Now the artist’s subjective gaze could concentrate on the pure form of the motif. Artists such as Leibl and Menzel (Study of a Young Woman) spoke out in favour of independent visual perception — “to learn to see is everything!” — and created astonishing excerpts from reality. The human being in everyday life and at work now became a subject in its own right and could be captured in drawing with the immediate freshness of spontaneous observation (Liebermann’s Girls Sewing, Hodler’s Reapers).
Portrait art underwent a heyday in the first half of the century; among other things, artists frequently painted likenesses of their artist friends as well as themselves (Peter Cornelius’s portraits of Friedrich Olivier and Theodor Rehbenitz or Friedrich Nerly’s self-portrait). In the later decades, the human figure came to be treated ever more abstractly, detached from the narrative context and depicted in the service of a universally valid theme, as exemplified by Hans von Marées (composition study Old Man and Children) and Käthe Kollwitz (Mother and Child).
The exhibition is structured in such a way as to mirror the thematic focusses of 19th-century draughtsmanship. The presentation offers a means of retracing the developments that took place throughout this eventful century, as well as to gain an understanding of the breaks in those developments. Of all of the themes and motifs featured, the widely differing depictions of landscape account for the largest proportion, whether ideal landscapes such as those by Joseph Anton Koch or Franz Kobell, fantasy sceneries of dream-like character such as those by Carl Blechen, topographical travel views such as Carl Rottmann’s splendid watercolours (Santorini) or recurring Italian motifs such as Ernst Fries’s Villa Chigi — a site extremely popular among German landscape artists. We also encounter highly expressive portraits by, for example, Friedrich Olivier and Lovis Corinth, religious and historical scenes such as those depicted on the Nazarenes’ cartoons for the famous Casa Bartholdy and Casino Massimo frescoes in Rome and — as a later 19th-century development — figural depictions devoid of narrative context, for instance those by Hans von Marées or Louis Eysen. Illustrations such as the epochal Faust depictions by Peter Cornelius or Wilhelm Busch’s picture stories form a category of their own.
In conjunction with the scholarly investigation of the drawings by Dr. Marianne von Manstein, the works underwent thorough conservatorial treatment by the head conservator for works on paper, Ruth Schmutzler. In the course of the preparations for the exhibition, the removal of old mountings revealed drawings on the backs of the sheets, which in turn permitted interesting conclusions about the respective work, the artist’s working methods, or the context. Various scientific investigation techniques also led to new insights. In cooperation with the Universität Frankfurt, an infrared device previously used at the Städel Museum primarily for the examination of paintings was now used to investigate works on paper. A number of works exhibited sections in which a second layer of paper had been glued to the first; the underlying layers were now made visible with astonishing success. This was the case, for example with the drawing by Gustav Heinrich Naeke on view in the show. The infrared investigation not only shed light on conceptual changes made to the composition, but also on Naeke’s artistic working process. It proved possible to reconstruct how the artist gradually developed the abstract linear formal language of the Nazarenes from what had initially been a naturalistic depiction of the motif.
Curator of the exhibition is Dr. Marianne von Manstein (Städel Museum).
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1909, Pencil, 344 x 256 mm, Photo: U. Edelmann – Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1910 from Kunsthandlung Ernst Arnold, Dresden.
Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), Seated Boy with Naked Legs, ca. 1905-10, Charcoal, 421 x 295 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main Auctioned in 1939 by the Frankfurt a. M. Customs Office.
Adolph Friedrich Erdmann Menzel (1815-1905), Barn Interior, ca. 1880, Pencil, 212 x 130 mm, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Acquired in 1939; restored to former owner and repurchased by the city of Frankfurt a. M. in 2011.