19th Century

Landscape Painting




“We have the most magnificent sceneries and so thoroughly romantic landscapes in Bavaria that I am confident: the greatest artists, if they had ever seen them, would be delighted to exercise their talent here.”

Lorenz Westenrieder, Bavarian Enlightenment writer and historian, 1782

In the late eighteenth century, when Munich artists first sought to capture actual natural scenes in painting, this innovation was accompanied by the discovery of the Bavarian landscape. Influenced by the Enlightenment ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, their eyes newly open to the picturesque beauties of the pre-Alpine uplands, painters ventured out of the city and into the countryside. Instead of composing ideal landscapes emulating the examples of Claude Lorrain or Jacob van Ruisdael, they went to find their own motifs. Their audiences followed the artists: excursions into the countryside around Munich became increasingly popular.

The first generation of Munich landscape painters included Johann Georg von Dillis, Wilhelm von Kobell, Max Joseph Wagenbauer, Johannes Jakob Dorner the Younger, and Simon Warnberger. The impressions of nature they captured in sketches created en plein air ushered in a new conception of the landscape free from the constraints of academic convention. Setting colorful groups of rural or bourgeois figures in scenes beneath wide skies, painters like Wilhelm von Kobell established a distinctive style of landscape painting associated with Munich. Carl Rottmann, who was a world-famous artist in his time, Ernst Fries, and Ernst Kaiser, as well as northerners like Christian E. B. Morgenstern, Christian Ezdorf, and Thomas Fearnley followed Kobell.

Landscape painting was originally one of the disciplines taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1808. The professorship was first held by Dillis, who was succeeded by Kobell in 1814. In 1826, the history painter Peter von Cornelius successfully advocated abolishing the chair. In the meantime, the Münchener Kunstverein, a private association of art lovers and one of the first and most important institutions of its kind in Germany, had been founded in 1823; as a counterweight to the Academy and the court’s arts policies, it now provided an important platform to the city’s landscape painters. In the 1830s, Heinrich Bürkel, who gained his renown through the association's exhibitions, shipped his landscapes, which show a life of peaceful harmony between man and his environment, to similar associations throughout Germany, becoming the author of the increasingly clichéd image that defined Upper Bavaria’s agricultural landscape in the minds of large audiences.