19th Century

Academic Painting




In 1854, the Glaspalast or Glass Palace, an opulent exhibition hall, opened its doors, and Munich increasingly attracted artists not just from Bavaria, but from all over Germany and neighboring countries. The city beckoned with an efficient art market and a renowned academy where artists such as Carl Theodor von Piloty, Wilhelm von Diez, and Franz von Stuck taught. Most notable German artists of the second half of the nineteenth century either trained in Munich or lived here for extended periods of time. This group includes the so-called princes of painters, Franz von Lenbach and Friedrich August von Kaulbach, but also artists like Wilhelm Leibl, Wilhelm Trübner, and Hans Thoma as well as the members of the Munich Secession, among them Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt, and Fritz von Uhde. In 1874, Carl Theodor von Piloty succeeded Wilhelm von Kaulbach as the director of the Munich Academy and became a highly influential figure. Kaulbach had represented a classicist school that emphasized the importance of delineation; Piloty, meanwhile, had spent time in Belgium and France in 1852 and studied the modern tendencies of a painterly variant of history painting that integrated elements of genre painting as well. Famous for large-format history paintings with pathos-laden theatrical scenes, he paved the way for the prevailing styles of German art in the prosperous final decades of the century. Lenbach, Franz von Defregger, Hans Makart, Wilhelm von Diez, Eduard von Grützner, Gabriel von Max, and many others were Piloty’s students. In keeping with the bourgeois roots of the Lenbachhaus’s collection, the art of Munich’s academic painters is exemplified in the museum’s holdings not by representative paintings in large formats but primarily by smaller genre and history paintings, portraits, and free studies. A particular focus in this division of the collection is the work of Gabriel von Max, an exceptional figure on the Munich scene. In 1883, when he had been professor of history painting for five years, he relinquished the position — an unprecedented step — because he wanted to devote his energies to his own painting rather than his students. Moreover, his research interests in the fields of spiritualism and Darwinism took up a steadily growing part of his time.