MARCH 19 – AUGUST 18, 2019 at Lenbachhaus

Nature as Art


The LANDSCAPE IN 19TH-CENTURY PAINTINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHS From the christoph heilmann foundation and the münchner stadtmuseum

After a two-year tour of Germany, the Christoph Heilmann Foundation’s collection returns to the Lenbachhaus for an exhibition scheduled to open in March 2019. Presenting the paintings of the Heilmann collection in an unusual “summit conference” together with photographs from the Münchner Stadtmuseum, Nature as Art will unfold a constructive dialogue between two of the nineteenth century’s most innovative pictorial media: the free-hand oil sketch and precise nature photography. Each in its own way revolutionized the visual representation of the landscape.

The nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of new motifs, new techniques, and new working conditions that transformed the representation of nature. Landscape painters and, a little later, their photographer colleagues left their studios to travel and traded the mental space of the imagination for the experience of the great outdoors. How did they see, paint, and photograph nature? Landscape painters and photographers wandered off the established itineraries to seek out remote locales. They studied the weather and the rich variety of meteorological phenomena and scrutinized unusual geological manifestations. Some still traveled south for scenic settings, but others now found appealing motifs in the wild and rugged nature of their native north. They turned their attention to utterly unspectacular sights and discerned a different kind of beauty in weathered rocks and the play of light and shadows.

Advances in the scientific study of nature went hand in hand with the flourishing of an artistic genre that made a radical break with the classical landscape tradition and augured the dawn of modernism in painting and photography. Painters such as Giacomo Caneva and August Kotzsch, most of them with academic training, now set up their cameras in coppices, on meadows, or by brooks and rivers to capture ephemeral natural impressions in realistic images. After 1855, these photographic nature studies became a staple of artists’ ateliers. Like oil sketches created on the scene, extensive collections of photographic studies of trees, clouds, or animals served painters as memory aids or a corrective to their artistic perceptions.

The culmination of a series of presentations—the exhibition was previously on view at Museum Schloss Moyland near Kleve and at the Angermuseum, Erfurt—the Munich show features a substantially enlarged landscape painting section with newly acquired works from the Christoph Heilmann Foundation. Landscapes and oil sketches by Carl Rottmann, Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, Johan Christian Dahl, Théodore Rousseau, Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Gustaf Wilhelm Palm, and others beckon with spectacular and novel perspectives on and insights into nature. Photographic incunabula by Georg Maria Eckert, Gustav Völkerling, Gustave Le Gray, and Constant Alexandre Famin, meanwhile, bring the early day of landscape photography to life.

The exhibition is curated by Christoph Heilmann, collector and founder of the foundation in his name, and Ulrich Pohlmann, Head of the Photography Collection at the Münchner Stadtmuseum.


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 Klosterruine am Meer (Ruined Abbey by the Sea, 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.


The paintings and photographs on display in the exhibition Nature as Art are documented in two separately available catalogues: the catalogue of the Christoph Heilmann Foundation, Munich, Natur als Kunst. Frühe Landschaftsmalerei des 19. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland und Frankreich (Verlag Das Wunderhorn, 2013, 288 pp., with numerous color ill. and scholarly contributions by Christoph Heilmann, Claudia Denk, Andreas Strobl, and Sarah Faunce, € 25), and the catalogue of the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s photography collection, Natur als Kunst. Landschaft im 19. Jahrhundert in Malerei und Fotografie (Wienand Verlag, 2016, 128 pp., with color ill. and contributions by Ulrich Pohlmann, Svenja Paulsen, Rudolf Scheutle, and Sabrina Mandanici, € 29,80).

WAS TUN! Figurentheaterwerkstatt
Kunst nach 1945
WAS TUN! Figurentheaterwerkstatt
Art after 1945

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