The Paintings of Anselm Feuerbach
Born in September of 1829 in Speyer, one of Germany’s oldest cities, Anselm Feuerbach was a painter and a leading member of the nineteenth-century German classical school. He was the son of archaeologist Joseph Anselm Feuerbach and the grandson of legal scholar Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, whose reformation of the Bavarian penal code led to the abolition of torture.
Anselm Feuerbach studied between 1845 and 1848 at the Düsseldorf Academy under the tutelage of romantic painter Wilhelm von Schadow, landscape painter Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, and Carl Sohn, whose poetic and mythical subjects were executed in the idealistic manner of the Düsseldorf school of painting. Feuerbach studied for a year at the Munich Academy of Art; he however left Munich in 1850 to attend the Academy at Antwerp. There he studied under Belgian painter Gustaaf Wappers, an early exponent of the Romanic movement in Belgium.
Anselm Feuerbach relocated to Paris in 1851 and became a student at the atelier of history and genre painter Thomas Couture. Conture is best known for his 1847 masterpiece “Romans During the Decadence” which was exhibited at Paris’s Salon a year before the revolution toppled the monarchy. In 1854, Feuerbach received funding from Grand Duke Friedrich of Baden which enabled him to visit Venice, accompanied by his friend, the writer Victor Scheffel. There he was influenced by the technique of layering and blending colors to achieve a glowing richness, a method deemed fundamental to the Venetian Colorist school.
Feuerbach traveled to Florence and then onto Rome where he would remain until 1873, with only brief trips back to Germany. In 1861, he met Anna Risi who became his mistress and sat as his model for four years, a period during which he painted twenty portraits of her. She was succeeded as a model in 1866 by Lucia Brunacci, an innkeeper’s wife who posed for Feuerbach’s depictions of the Greek sorceress Medea. In 1862, literary and art historian Count Adolf Freidrich von Schack commissioned Feuerbach for several copies of Old Master paintings and introduced him to artists Hans von Marées and Arnold Böcklin.
Interested in the Persian poet Hafia since his youth, Anselm Feuervach in 1866 painted his “Hafia at the Fountain” which was acquired two years later by art collector Joseph Benzino, Upon Benzino’s death, the painting was bequeathed to the Kaiserslautern Art Museum. In 1873, Feuerbach relocated to Vienna and took the position of professor of history painting at the Academy of Fine Arts. Four years later, he resigned his post and moved back to Venice. where he passed away, at the age of fifty, in January of 1880.
In remembrance of Feuerbach, his friend Johannes Brahms composed “Nänie (A Funeral Song)”, a composition for full chorus and orchestra, of which the first sentence states “Even the beautiful must die”. Feuerbach was close to his step-mother Henriette Feuerbach. Throughout his lifetime of travels, he wrote roughly six-hundred letters to his step-mother describing his everyday life and problems, as well as his thoughts on art and his methods of painting. Following Feuerbach’s death, his step-mother wrote a book entitled “Ein Vermächtnis (A Testament)” which included his autobiographical notes and many of his personal letters. Anselm Feuerbach’s works are housed in collections of the leading public German galleries.
Note: An article written by Candida Syndikus entitled “Far from the Modern World: Anselm Feuerbach’s Idea of Modernity” can be found at: https://www.academia.edu/31442931/Far_from_the_modern_world_Anselm_Feuerbach_s_Idea_of_Modernity_pp_63_103
Top Insert Image: Anselm Feuerbach, Selbetbildnis als Knabe (Self Portrait as a Boy)”, 1845-1846, Oil on Canvas, 15.5 x 12.5 cm, Alte Nationalgalerie
Middle Insert Image: Anselm Feuerbach, “Seated Male Nude”, 1860-1869, Black and white Chalk on Brown Paper, 60.4 x 40 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Bottom Insert Image: Anselm Feuerbach, “Self Portrait”, 1852-1853, Oil on Canvas, 42 x 33 cm, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany