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Oswald Achenbach

Oswald Achenbach (Feb 2, 1827 – Feb 1, 1905) was a German painter associated with the Düsseldorf school of painting. Though little known today, during his lifetime he was counted among the most important landscape painters of Europe. Through his teaching activities, he influenced the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. His brother, Andreas Achenbach, who was twelve years older, was also among the most important German landscape painters of the 19th century. The two brothers were humorously called “the A and O of Landscapes”.

Oswald Achenbach was born as the fifth of ten children in Düsseldorf. His parents were Hermann Achenbach and Christine Zülch Wenig suggested that two painters who were important for the 19th century would emerge from the family. Hermann Achenbach was active in a number of different occupations – and vinegar brewer, owned an inn in Dusseldorf, and later worked as an accountant. Even while Achenbach’s early childhood, the family moved to Munich, where Oswald Achenbach attended the elementary school for a short time. At which time the family returned to Dusseldorf is not surpassed

The relationship with his brother Andreas, as a well-known painter, was obviously disturbed. Emil Hünten and Anton von Werner once tried to persuade him to a drink to the brother, but Oswald Achenbach declined

Achenbach was already admitted to the elementary class of the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in 1835, at the age of eight. This did not correspond to the statutes of this institution, which provided a minimum age of twelve years. Achenbach remained until 1841 at the academy Pupils of the elementary class in which the foundations of drawing were taught. This too was not in accordance with the normal curriculum. For what reasons Oswald Achenbach was treated differently than the statutes provide, it is no longer possible to comprehend the statutes. The statutes were only valid as a framework guideline As Achenbach was an exception

For which reason Oswald Achenbach left the Düsseldorf academy in 1841. Based on his sketchbooks, one knows that he was at that time more intensive studies of nature in the area around Düsseldorf. Mechthild Potthoff in her dissertation on Achenbach has made the thesis that his withdrawal took place , Because he became increasingly dissatisfied with rigid academic teaching

In 1843, the first 16-year-old Achenbach journeyed to Oberbayern and Nordtirol, during which he continued his natural studies. The earliest well-known work in oil also originated from this period. Achenbach also traveled with his friend and later student Albert Flamm Summer 1845, served the continuation of these studies From this point onwards the paintings, which Achenbach created, show predominantly Italian landscape motifs

Only a few of the works painted by Achenbach up to 1850 have been preserved. It shows that in the choice of motifs as well as in his technique of painting, he was strongly influenced by the artistic understanding taught at the Kunstakademien at that time The painterly influence of Johann Wilhelm Schirmer and Carl Rottmann is still recognizable in these paintings. In the oil studies that Achenbach created during these journeys, he mainly held landscape views and dealt in detail with the vegetation characteristic of Italy. A much smaller role plays architectural motifs or character studies

The art academies had been coined by the art academies until well into the 19th century. However, these art academies had become a formal and rigid training enterprise especially in the 19th century, which did not react to recent artistic trends. The art academies also arranged the major art exhibitions, Works sold to artists who were in contradiction to the academic view of art in their art style were not exhibited there and generally had far fewer opportunities to sell their works. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, individual artists and representatives of entire artistic directions stood in opposition to the academic Achenbach also belonged to the artists, who were critical of the art academy in Düsseldorf, and very early became a member of two Diisseldorf associations, to which many like-minded artists had joined “Association of Dusseldorf Artists for Mutual Assistance and Help” as well as “Malkasten”, founded on the 11th of August, 1848. Achenbach was one of the signatories of the founding letter of the painting council Achenbach The association purpose of the “painting council” was to bring together and promote different artists Staged theater, directed music, and exhibited Achenbach was actively involved in many events. He directed, acted as a playmaker, or staged plays. In particular, Achenbach remained a member of the “Malkasten” association until the end of his life

From 1850 onwards, his paintings were exhibited in the exhibitions of the newly founded Eduard Schulte Gallery in Düsseldorf. At first, works by artists who were independent from the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf were exhibited. Achenbach ‘s economic success as a painter has played an important role in this gallery To one of the leading German galleries developed and later branch offices also in Berlin and Cologne entertained, he was at this time almost around the corner on the Ratingerstrasse

In the summer months of 1850, Achenbach again undertook a trip to Italy, which led him to Nice, Genoa, and Rome. Together with Albert Flamm, he traveled from Rome to the surroundings of the Italian capital, and especially visited the places before him landscapes During this trip he learned to know Arnold Böcklin, Ludwig Thiersch and Heinrich Dreber, and spent some time with them in Olevano Thiersch, how different these artists used the impressions of the landscape. While Dreber made painstaking pencil drawings, Böcklin had the But only a few details remained in his sketchbook Achenbach and Flamm painted their oil sketches directly in the open nature The surviving sketches of Achenbach show that he was less interested in details but in the characteristic colors and formsAs well as the shadows of light and shadows Distinctly, he transformed the color impression of the Italian landscape by superimposing color layers in different pigment densities and pastas to find the desired tone

On May 3, 1851, Achenbach married Julie Arnz, with whom he had been engaged since 1848. Julie Arnz was the daughter of the Düsseldorf publisher and printer maker Heinrich Arnz (Arnz & Comp), who published the “Düsseldorfer Monatshefte”, for which Achenbach created satirical sheets, And the “Düsseldorfer Monatsalbum”, to which Achenbach contributed illustrations of poems and songs as well as lithographs of his paintings. At the same time he began to teach the first pupils privately in landscape painting. He used his studio in the Palais Spinrath. Between 1852 and 1857 the four Daughters of Oswald Achenbach and Julie Arnz born The only son of the couple was born in 1861 (Benno von Achenbach)

At this time, Achenbach was known as a painter already far beyond the borders of Germany. In 1852 the Kunstakademie in Amsterdam honored the 25-year-old as honorary member. At the world exhibition in Paris in 1855, where he was represented with several paintings, he was awarded In 1859, he was honored with a Golden Medal at the Paris Salon, and in 1861, the St Petersburg Academy awarded him the Honorary Membership. In 1862 he received the same award from the Kunstakademie in Rotterdam

In March 1863, Achenbach received the professorship for landscape painting at the Kunstakademie in Duesseldorf. The assumption meant a social ascent and financial security for Achenbach. However, it also appears to be in contradiction with his previous opposition to this institution. Since Wilhelm von Schadow in 1859 the office Of the director, however, the disputes had diminished both within the academy of art and between the academy and the artists who were independent of it. Applying Achenbach to a chair for landscape painting was also conscious politics by the new Directorate of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, To make a reconciliation with the artists independent of the academy. In the same year, Oswald Achenbach was also appointed “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur” by Napoleon III, and in the years 1863 to 1868 he was with Paintings presented at the Paris Salon In addition to the award of the Guadeloupe Order by Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1866 and the award of the Knights Cross 1 Class of the Order of Merit of St. Michael by the jury for the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Munich in 1869, this was the most honorable award that Achenbach received Such awards for artists were customary at this time and should not be overestimated. They, however, contributed considerably to Achenbach’s popularity, confirmed his recognition as an artist by official institutions, and were important for his sales success as a painter

As a professor, Achenbach was the successor of Hans Fredrik Gude. From 1866/1867 he was one of the masterclasses of the academy. From the student lists of the Dusseldorf academy, a total of 50 famous students belonged to the so-called Achenbach school , Gregor von Bochmann, Arthur Calame, Themistokles von Eckenbrecher, Arnold Forstmann, Theodor Hagen, Louis Kolitz, Ascan Lutteroth, Adelsteen Normann, and Carl Seibel ‘s students, he emphasized above all how decisive the distribution of light and darkness is for the composition of a For him, this was more important than the choice of the motif. In his mind, he made his pupils think about the paintings by William Turner. He also recommended his students to the works of his brother Andreas Achenbach

Achenbach also undertook a variety of journeys during his teaching activities, including long-term stays in the Teutoburger Wald and Switzerland. In 1871 he stayed with his family in Italy for almost nine months. The stops of this trip include Castellammare di Stabia, Amalfi, Capri and Ischia He stayed in Sorrento for several weeks, during which time he was represented by Theodor Hagen and Albert Flamm at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts

The paintings were increasingly “haptic”, ie the applied colors had a stronger relief and the guidance of the brush was less dependent on the depicted object. In individual image parts, Achenbach renounced a detailed design of art historians That this change in painting technique is due to a discussion with the paintings by Gustave Courbet. The motif of his paintings continued to be the landscapes and popular scenes of Italy, which he intensified and idealized through his directing of light

It belonged to the preferred selection of contemporary artists, who proposed the “Komité for the procurement and evaluation of stollwerck pictures” to the Cologne chocolate producer Ludwig Stollwerck to commission for designs

The professor for landscape painting, which Achenbach had been holding since March 1863, he laid down in 1872 As early as 1869, Achenbach had made a request for his dismissal from the Lehramt, but then withdrew it again In 1872, Achenbach contributed to his teaching activity in his Own artistic work

In the following years, Achenbach undertook numerous journeys. He made his last trip to Italy in the early summer of 1882, and visited Naples and Sorrento next to Florence and Rome. In 1885 and 1895, he traveled to Upper Italy. In 1897 he planned another trip to Florence , But had to cancel because of a disease already in Switzerland

In 1897, Achenbach was appointed honorary citizen of the city of Düsseldorf on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. It was the award for more than fifty years of engagement in various Düsseldorf institutions and associations. Achenbach had long belonged to the leading personalities of the city. This high social position also caused Achenbach A very large, ornate and hospitable house in which artists, writers, scholars, officers, and nobles of the aristocracy. Among his most prominent guests and customers was Prince Charles Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen Such a household management was costly and made it necessary that Achenbach Many paintings “produced” As a socially-recognized artist, it was easy for him to find buyers. However, the high number of paintings created by him led to a repetition of motifs. As early as the 1860s, art rebirers threw him back Recalled that he had motives “totmale” This judgment may have contributed to the fact that he increasingly also painted mountain motifs

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As in the oil studies of the 1850s, Achenbach also added the colors in his late works. He also worked with brushes, spatulas and fingers, and also used the canvas structure as a design medium, painted uniformly and carefully with a fine brush Painterly late work sometimes right next to those in which the background appears or in which the colors are pastelly accumulated. His later paintings therefore have a distinctly felt relief. The canvas grain and the traces of the various paintings contribute to the appearance of the paintings

It is characteristic of his later paintings that the detail accuracy does not decrease continuously with the perspective distance, but is directed by Achenbach ‘s overall effect of the painting. While in his early pictures the color was still subordinate to a total tone, Paintings accentuating contrasts a more prominent role In the paintings that emerged from the middle of the 1880s predominantly pastel tones prevail, while in his early paintings brownish tones dominated

Oswald Achenbach died in Dusseldorf on 1 February 1905, one day before his 78th birthday Achenbach was buried at the Nordfriedhof Düsseldorf, where his grave was kept in the field 27

The oil studies and sketches:
During the lifetime of Achenbach, his paintings were mostly shown in the public – he was, therefore, mainly perceived as a painter of “salon pictures” or “galeries”, whose work was not reflected by the recent art currents. Achenbach had already in 1876 on the occasion of the annual exhibition at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna An oil study was also exhibited at the “Exhibition of Sketches and Studies” in the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1889. The reactions to these oil studies were different In Vienna, this showed the proof that Achenbach was able to compete with his younger colleagues:

“… also the vivid sketch of a Neapolitan street picture and the admirably vedute, with a happy look in regard to the composition, after Bieco on the Sorrenten street of Oswald Achenbach are unpleasant rivals for younger”

In Düsseldorf, on the other hand, an art critic was wondering how such “incomplete sketches” might still result in “magnificent paintings”

It was not until 1916 that the exhibition “Untermalungen, Skizzen, Studien, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen Oswald Achenbach” by the Städtische Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf gave a more complete overview of the work of the painter. In the preface to the exhibition catalog it was pointed out that these unknown works in particular show that Achenbach possibly Was unjustly in the call to have been an “old-fashioned” artist:

“It was precisely these artistic self-talks that show that, long before Impressionism was called, Achenbach realized its aims, and in fact out of its own accord, without any connection to any school or lesson …”

Sketches, drawings and oil studies served Achenbach as a memory aid for the later work in the studio, just like other painters. In the course of his artistic development, however, the sketchy Duktus has gained more and more space in his paintings. For example, in his 1877 painting “In the Bay of Naples With a view of Capri “the whole lower right billboard only vaguely indicated The letters to his gallery owners, in which he complains that he has to paint pictures” ready “for exhibitions, are handed over to the so – called background paintings on which the scaffolding for The work of the later painting was more successful than in the detailed arrangements. The art taste of the public and the art critics influencing the purchasing decision, however, demanded “completed” paintings, as did his gallery owners’ paintings by John Constable and Charles-François Daubigny Are criticized in public for their sketchiness

Painters who influenced Oswald Achenbach:
Achenbach had never been a pupil of Johann Wilhelm Schirmer during his education at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. As an artist who spent most of his life and work in Dusseldorf, he had sufficient opportunity to study his paintings. Achenbach’s paintings from the 1840s And early 1850s. In the paintings of the later years, however, this can no longer be ascertained

Schirmer’s influence on the early pictures of Achenbach can also be traced back to his twelve-year-old brother, Andreas Achenbach, who also studied at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf. Andreas Achenbach had been a pupil of Schirmer, and some letters suggest that Oswald Achenbach von Andreas Achenbach, at least in the 1840s, received advice on the technique of painting and motifs, and thus indirectly influenced by Schirmer’s conception of art. While Oswald Achenbach concentrated on the representation of Italian landscapes, Andreas Achenbach had turned to the naval images: typical images for him are ” (1871) or “Fish Market in Ostend” However, the works of the two brothers resemble each other in the treatment of the staff and the lighting

William Turner and Gustave Courbet:
Oswald Achenbach has repeatedly recommended the English painter William Turner as an example. However, he probably never saw works by Turner in the original, because a trip to England can not be taken for Oswald Achenbach. He probably knew Turner ‘s painting only from the steel engravings “Mercury and Argus” and “Dogana, and Madonna della Salute, Venice” had already been published in steel engravings in 1843; They show an atmospheric resolution of the landscape, in which the individual forms and objects were only schematically indicated. Achenbach was never as radical in his pictorial representations as gymnasts, but above all in his paintings after 1860 a similar pictorial resolution of the object takes place

On the other hand, Achenbach probably had several occasions to study the works of Gustave Courbet in the original. Until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Achenbach was in close contact with the art scene in Paris at the 1855 exhibition in Paris, on the Achenbach Paintings, Courbet also included eleven paintings. Parallel to this, Courbet painted forty paintings in Courbet’s “Pavilion du réalisme”, which attracted great attention with his radical realism, and it is very probable that Achenbach saw both the exhibition of the Frankfurt Kunstverein , Which exhibited works by Courbet from the spring of 1858 to February 1859, as well as the first great Courbet retrospective, which took place parallel to the Paris exhibition of 1867. Similar to Courbet, one finds in Achenbach’s work increasingly an adaptation of individual perspectively distant picture elements An e Galite surface structure, Achenbach’s painting became more relief-like

Classification of Achenbach’s work:
Gustave Courbet’s radical realism inspired not only Oswald Achenbach but also a number of other German painters. The so-called “Leibl circle” around the painter Wilhelm Leibl, which included Wilhelm Trübner, Carl Schuch, Johann Sperl, and Hans Thoma Courbets’ works and was inspired by a “purely painting” technique. In particular, Leibl developed a technique in which the brushwork completely neglected the specific materiality of the object to be presented, and which was already pointing towards abstraction as it divided surfaces and shapes into uniform units

Achenbach, on the other hand, was radical in his brushwork and color application, but he always retained the formal criteria of the traditional picture-view. This leads to a very different view of art from Achenbach. One sees in him an artist who stagnated in a once-developed style and stagnated artistically Other art historians attribute to Achenbach a mediating role, since he portrayed traditional material in his own language of form, and thus in the modern sense is indisputable, that his early landscapes were indicative. Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, a painter was to be found in him Had adapted his later paintings to the taste of the public and had become a typical representative of the Gründerzeit period. Kindler’s painting analogy also comes to a similar conclusion:

“[Achenbach created] an extensive work, whereby his virtuoso talent, which cultivated less the taste than the taste of uncritical buyer circles, made him for a long time a pronounced modemer, but not infrequently also impaired the quality of his pictures”

Oswald Achenbach’s work includes about 2000 paintings About two-thirds of the total work is in private ownership

Selected works:
Evening landscape around 1880, oil on canvas, Bautzen, municipal museum
Evening landscape with view of Vesuvius 1888, oil on canvas, Düsseldorf, picture gallery Museum Kunstpalast
Villa of the Queen Johanna 1884, Oil on canvas, Kiel, Kunsthalle Kiel
Saltarellotanz with view of Castel Gandolfo oil on canvas, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
Roman procession before St Maria in Aracoeli 1863, oil on canvas, Mannheim, Kunsthalle Mannheim
Scene in an Italian park Oil on canvas, Munich, Neue Pinakothek
Storm in the Campagna 1887, oil on canvas, Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Illustrations (selection):
Digitized editions of the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf:

In: Friedrich Bodenstedt (Hrsg): Album of German Art and Poetry With woodcutting according to original drawings by the artists, executed by R Brend’amour Grote, Berlin 1867, Digitized edition
In: Alte und neue Liebeslieder: With pictures and singing / illustrations by Düsseldorfer artists [Oswald Achenbach u] Hallberger, Stuttgart 1849, Digitized version
In: Aquarelle Düsseldorf artist: dedicated to the artifical ladies Arnz, Düsseldorf 1861, Digitized version
Mole of Naples 1857 (Digitisat)
Italian autumn evening of Arnz, Düsseldorf after 1857, digitalisat
In: Mary Botham Howitt: The Dusseldorf artist’s album Arnz, Dusseldorf 1854, Digitized version
In: Düsseldorfer Lieder-Album: 6 Songs with pianoforte accompaniment Arnz, Düsseldorf 1851, Digitized edition
In: Ludwigsbund (Hrsg): Lieder der Heimath: A collection of the most important poems in the imagery of German art Breidenbach, Düsseldorf 1868, Digitized edition
In: K Stieler, H Wachenhusen, Germany W Hackländer: Rheinfahrt: From the sources of the Rhine to the sea Kröner, Stuttgart 1875, Digitized version
In: Christmas Album Arnz, Düsseldorf 1853, Digitized edition