Heilmann Stiftung




Steadily pursuing a well-defined vision over the course of decades, the art historian, collector, and philanthropist Christoph Heilmann built a sizable art collection that has been on permanent loan to the Lenbachhaus since 2013. Comprising over a hundred works, it reflects key aspects of the history of landscape painting in the nineteenth century. At this time, the genre quickly emerged as a central locus of creative innovation in painting; defying the rise of national tendencies, it often hewed to a decidedly European orientation.

The collection emphasizes the transnational networks between painters, with a focus on works by German, French, and Scandinavian artists. Roaming far and wide and immersing themselves in nature, they developed a new practice of landscape painting. That is why freehand oil sketches constitute the bulk of the collection’s holdings: they were a source of impulses whose significance for the contemporary international evolution of modern art can hardly be overstated.


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 Barbizon Painters

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


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.


Public guided tours
several times a day
Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin

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