Heilmann Stiftung




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 two-year tour of Germany, the Christoph Heilmann Foundation’s collection returned to the Lenbachhaus for an exhibition. Presenting the paintings of the Heilmann collection in an unusual “summit conference” together with photographs from the Münchner Stadtmuseum, Nature as Art unfolded 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 featured 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 beckoned 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, brought 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.


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.


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.

Research and edition project on Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819)

A multiyear research and edition project is devoted to a salient example of the transfer of ideas and techniques between France and Germany in the field of landscape painting around 1800. It focuses on the German translation of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes' Élémens de perspective pratique, à l'usage des artistes, suivis de Réflexions et Conseils à un Élève sur la Peinture, et particulièrement sur le genre du Paysage (Paris 1799/1800), which came out in 1803, only three years after the original.

One goal of the project is to assess the role the translation played in helping to establish the oil study as a widespread practice in nineteenth-century European art. Methodologically, it takes inspiration from the scholarship on French-German cultural transfer and on translation as a medium of intercultural communication. The project will inquire into the ways the book was creatively adapted for a German readership, which libraries held copies, and which members of the avant-garde in landscape painting such as Caspar David Friedrich, Johan Christian Dahl, Johann Georg von Dillis, or Carl Blechen, as well as German explorers like Alexander von Humboldt or collectors like Maximilian Speck von Sternburg, took note of Valenciennes' groundbreaking ideas.

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