Christoph Heilmann Foundation

In 2013, the Christoph Heilmann Foundation and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau concluded an agreement that laid the foundation for a long-term collaboration. Over a hundred works from the foundation's collection of early nineteenth-century landscape paintings have joined the museum's own holdings, a perfect complement that rounds out the Lenbachhaus's cherished collection.

Over the past years, an initial presentation in the galleries of the new Lenbachhaus offered a comprehensive survey of the collection, showcasing characteristic exemplars of the art of the Munich school and the Dresden romantics as well as the Berlin and Düsseldorf schools. The exhibition also highlighted an important subset of the foundation's holdings that is unrivaled among private collections in Germany: works of the Barbizon school of artists, who revolutionized landscape painting with the plein-air oil sketches they created in the Forest of Fontainebleau.

After a successful two-year tour of Germany, with stops at Museum Schloss Moyland near Kleve and at the Angermuseum in Erfurt, Christoph Heilmann's collection returned to the Lenbachhaus in Munich in March 2019 with the extensive exhibition "Nature as Art". In an unusual Munich "summit conference," the paintings of the Christoph Heilmann Foundation engaged in a constructive dialogue with early landscape photographs from the Münchner Stadtmuseum's photography collection. Two of the most innovative pictorial media of the nineteenth century—the freehand oil sketch and precise nature photography—threw one another’s distinctive qualities into relief and illustrated the evolution of the modern vision of the landscape.

Selected key works from Christoph Heilmann's collection are currently on view in the galleries on the first floor in a presentation of the art of the Barbizon school of painters, who revolutionized the landscape painting with their plein-air oil sketches of scenes in the famous forest of Fontainebleau.


The two rooms dedicated to the Christoph Heilmann Foundation in the exhibition Brushstrokes draw on this outstanding treasure, unrivaled among private collections in Germany, to showcase the art of the Barbizon Painters. What started out as a local group in the forest of Fontainebleau soon exerted a powerful influence well beyond the borders of France. With unprecedented resolve, anti-academic rebels set the art of the landscape on a new foundation, moving it from the studio to the great outdoors. Munich was among the first places in which the Barbizon painters' work caught on. Their landscapes were soon included in the exhibitions at the Glaspalast, and the school's two most famous exponents, Gustave Courbet and Camille Corot, were awarded the highest honors of the Kingdom of Bavaria.

The village of Barbizon on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau south of Paris was little more than a string of houses along a country road when the arrival of the railway made it easily accessible from the capital, and after 1840 it became a meeting place for the leading French landscape painters. Sustained by personal friendships, their loose association soon came to be known as the Barbizon School. Formerly a royal hunting preserve, the fabled forest with its age-old trees, archaic rock formations, and wide-open heaths beckoned with unusually varied and unspoiled natural motifs. Gradually abandoning the sterile and static atmosphere of the studios that had been the conventional scene of creative production, the Barbizon painters took advantage of the availability of tube paints and lightweight traveling paint boxes to explore the pathless wilderness. This newfound freedom endowed their work with an utterly novel pictorial quality.

The group's leading protagonist, Théodore Rousseau, for example, braved the eerie gloom of an ancient oak grove and the stinging cold to paint his Forest at Sunset in Winter (after 1846), bathing the scene in a mystical evening light. The southern sceneries suffused with an elegiac mood preferred by earlier landscape artists gave way to the rugged nature of the north. Painting his Black Rocks at Trouville as the year 1865 came to a close, Gustave Courbet was inspired by the natural spectacle before him to venture what he described as a "liberating" creative act in the rendition of the autumnal sky. Jean-François Millet’s Bathing Woman Sitting by the Water witnesses to a new intimate relationship between humans and nature.

Last but not least, these landscapes and others by Camille Corot, Jules Dupré, Charles-François Daubigny, and their colleagues appealed to city-weary Parisians with a longed-for authenticity in the depiction of nature signaled both by the unclassical motifs and by the free and uncontrived brushwork.

Presentation conceived by Dr. Christoph Heilmann

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Der Große Baum (Studie), um 1865, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Théodore Roussau, Wald bei Sonnenuntergang im Winter, nach 1846, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Charles-François Daubigny, Mündung der Themse, um 1870, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Jean-François Millet, Nacktes Bauernmädchen an der Böschung eines Baches sitzend, 1847/48, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich

New Acquisitions

In keeping with its collection profile, the Christoph Heilmann Foundation has enlarged its holdings of early German, French, and Scandinavian Nineteenth-Century landscape paintings. Over the past two years, ten new works have been acquired for the collection.

These include "Palazzo Donna Anna" (1825) a work of the landscape and genre painter Franz Ludwig Catel (1778–1856) that combines an imposing depiction of the ruined building and a group of fishermen seeking shelter with a faithful rendering of the agitated sea. Three of the new acquisitions enhance the foundation's collection in the field of the Barbizon school. Among its leading members were Théodore Rousseau (1812–1867) and his close friend Jean-François Millet (1814–1875). A major oil study by Rousseau from his 1830 sojourn in Auvergne offers evidence of his keen eye for the particular qualities of daylight conditions and vegetation and his aspiration to verisimilitude. The acquisition of a drawing by his comrade Millet of a peasant girl resting naked and lost in thought on a riverbank served as a preparatory sketch for a painting already in the foundation’s possession, enables an illustration of Millet’s creative process.

The third newly acquired French landscape painting is a small picture of undergrowth in the old forest of Villers-Cotterêts by Paul Huet (1803–1869). In recent years, the foundation has sought to enlarge the collection's foci by adding works from the Scandinavian countries. In this connection, it has acquired a "Südliche Landschaft bei Subjaco" (Southern Landscape near Subiaco, 1847) by Gustaf Wilhelm Palm (1810–1890), a Swedish landscape painter whose significance was not fully appreciated until recently. A study of a gnarly old oak by Anton Eduard Kieldrup (1826–1869) attests to the discovery by landscape painters of the north with its characteristic rough vegetation.

Franz Ludwig Catel, Palazzo Donna Anna, 1825, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Théodore Rousseau, Landschaft in der Auvergne, 1830, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Gustaf Wilhelm Palm, Landschaft bei Subjaco, 1847, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Anton Eduard Kieldrup, Studie eines alten Eichbaumes, n. d., Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich
Jean-François Millet, Junge Frau, sich die langen Haare nach dem Bade hochsteckend, 1845/46, on permanent loan to Lenbachhaus Munich


Scholarly catalogue of the holdings

The foundation continually works to subject its growing collection to scholarly analysis. Supplements to the existing catalogue of the holdings, titled "Frühe Landschaftsmalerei des 19. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland und Frankreich" (ed. Christoph von Heilmann, Heidelberg: Wunderhorn 2013/2015), that document the newly acquired works are published in intervals of two to three years.

Symposia / Lectures

Lecture series, symposia, and research projects are organized to consider the foundation's collection in broader perspectives and connect the analysis of the works to larger issues in the scholarship on early landscape painting.

For example, the symposium "Mobilität und Naturerfahrung im 19. Jahrhundert" examined the question to which extent landscape artists' travels to destinations near and distant, which came to be seen as obligatory in the nineteenth century, had a crucial influence on their work. To read the article on ArtHist please click here.

The accompanying book "Landschaftsmalerei, eine Reisekunst?—Mobilität und Naturerfahrung im 19. Jahrhundert" presents contributions by renowned international experts that offer an extensive discussion of the particular situation in which traveling landscape painters worked.

In the context of new research perspectives on landscape paining around 1800, two publications have been published with the support of the Christoph Heilmann Foundation:

Barbara Eschenburg: Naturbilder – Weltbilder. Landschaftsmalerei und Naturphilosophie von Jan van Eyck bis Paul Klee, Gebr. Mann Verlag Berlin 2019.

Valenciennes‘ Ratgeber für den reisenden Landschaftsmaler. Zirkulierendes Künstlerwissen um 1800, herausgegeben und kommentiert von Claudia Denk mit einem Vorwort von Christoph Heilmann und Bernhard Maaz, Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin, München 2019.