Carl Spitzweg is a painter of the late Romantic period, who created the Germans' most loved painting: The Poor Poet. The Bavarian artist masterly knew how to draw a bead on the petite bourgeoisie by depicting human weaknesses and quirks - in the raw, but rather with a wink than coarsely. His works burst with irony and hidden humour. Humorous genre pictures became his speciality. These small-size everyday scenes possess a unique charm.
The paintings stand out due to their intensive colour shades. Spitzweg had a very special sense for the power of colours and their effective appliance.
Carl Spitzweg was born back in 1808 in a Bavarian village. Despite his artistic talent, he started a pharmacist training in 1825. On the side, he used to draw his customers.
After a sanatorium stay, he decided to dedicate himself to painting full time. Together with his friend Eduard Schleich, a landscape painter, Carl Spitzweg undertook several journeys, which strongly influenced his works. Apart from painting, the artist also created illustrations e.g. humorous portrayals for the Flying Sheets magazine.
During his lifetime, he did about 1,500 paintings and drawings, of which he could sell only about a third. It was not until the 1950s that the popularity of his Romantic art started increasing.
Main facts about Carl Spitzweg:
Humour and irony give Spitzweg's paintings an enchanting charm. The early humorous pictures are the most popular ones today.
The Poor Poet is without doubt Spitzweg's best-known work. It shows a writer in his poor mansard; there he lies, on a simple mattress - for he cannot afford a bed - and does his work. The painting is quite dark; just a bit of light enters through a small window. The picture impresses not only by its colouring, which reached a new intensity with Spitzweg, but also by the artist's concise brushwork.
The Bookworm charmingly caricatures a book lover lost in reverie in the midst of a library. The portrayed person is fictitious and provides room for interpretation.
‘Is it a bibliophile, who feels completely at home? Or a knowledge-thirsty person, who hopes for truths about his increasing age from metaphysics? Or do we see a modest ignoramus, whose personal little happiness provokes our smile?’
(Jens C. Jensen, art historian)
The Intercepted Love Letter also belongs to Spitzweg's well-known works. The picturesque scene depicts a young student, who lets down a love letter from his room to the flat below. His absorbed lover doesn't perceive the letter, but so does her governess.
More known paintings by Carl Spitzweg:
Carl Spitzweg's artwork belongs to the late Romantic period (1848-1900). The pictures still addressed Romantic questions, but their focus changed towards the improvement of painting techniques.
Painters of this period, like Spitzweg, had to face two challenges: the emergence of impressionist painting and photography. Impressionism brought subjective sensations to the fore, whereas photography proved that painting was limited in depicting reality.
Nevertheless, the pictures from the late Romantic era were highly popular - not least because the middle classes grew, and so did the number of customers. In order to meet the expectations of the bourgeoisie, artists like Spitzweg adapted their ways of expression. Favourite subjects like portrait, landscape, historical painting, and still life became bigger, more dramatic, more extravagant and grandiose.
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