THE LEIBL CIRCLE
The so-called Leibl circle around the painter Wilhelm Leibl (1844 – 1900) was a loose association of artists, most of whom became friends during their time at the Munich Academy in the mid-1860s. Among its members were Wilhelm Trübner, Carl Schuch, Johann Sperl, Ludwig Eibl, Albert Lang, Theodor Alt, Fritz Schider, Rudolf Hirth du Frênes, and, briefly, Hans Thoma and Karl Haider. With the exceptions of Wilhelm Trübner and Hans Thoma, who eventually chose a very different path, these artists did not aspire to academic offices and never reached positions of privilege in society. After 1873, Leibl withdrew from the Munich art world to the countryside; with the painter Johann Sperl, he lived in Berbling and Bad Aibling, both in Upper Bavaria. Others, like Carl Schuch, spent much of their time away from Munich, in Italy, for example.
The painters of the Leibl circle emphasized the “purely painterly” register, dismissing concern with content as “literary.” Another target of their opposition was the technical virtuosity prized in the Munich art world. Cool atmospheres prevail in the pictures of the Leibl circle, although dark hues often set the tone; the textures, which suggest woven fabric, result from the artists’ use of broad brushes. To keep painting “honest,” they worked “alla prima,” applying the paint in several layers, as was conventional, but wet-on-wet, which made fixing mistakes by painting over them impossible. The collaboration between the circle’s painters was closest in the early 1870, when various groups also shared studios. Then its members struck out on their own. Schuch evolved a very distinctive style in later years that was based on an exceptionally pastose application of paint. Trübner, after 1876, more than once turned to history painting, a genre the circle had roundly rejected. Leibl’s work took on aspects of Impressionism in the 1890s, a development his Veterinarian Reindl in the Arbor illustrates with particular clarity.