Date:9. February 1887 – (?) 1887
Place: Prague, Rudolfinum
Organizer:Fine Arts Association
The posthumous exhibition of selected works by Carl Spitzweg closed a period of intense relationships and popularity this painter had enjoyed in Prague.
Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885), a Munich-based painter and illustrator, was self taught but managed to become one of the most important artists in the local art world. In the 1840s, he worked as an illustrator for the newly established satirical magazine Fliegende Blätter. He also created his first humorous genre paintings in this period, depicting the bourgeois idyll; later on, he focused on landscape painting, particularly mountain landscapes featuring figural staffage and dramatic light. His career as a professional artist took him to not only Paris and London but also to Prague.
Beginning in the 1840s, Prague and Munich developed close cultural contact, attracting a number of international artists to Prague. Spitzweg’s visit to the Bohemian capital in 1849 is an example of such close relations between the two milieus. Recent research suggests that it was precisely this Prague visit that inspired Spitzweg to prioritize his painterly interests over caricature and illustration [Bitterli 2021]. Although Spitzweg was not an international phenomenon, his work was very popular and influential in Prague. For three decades, his paintings appeared regularly at Prague exhibitions.
Spitzweg’s private accounting shows that between 1842 and 1878, he sold about 60 paintings in Prague [Petrasová – Prahl 2012], making him the most commercially successful among the international artists exhibiting in Prague. His earliest buyers included Count Franz of Salm who purchased one of Spitzweg’s paintings as early as in the 1840s. With other wealthy Czech-Austrians following suit, Spitzweg soon had a chance to conquer the Central-European art market.
Spitzweg’s popularity among Prague collectors and art lovers was a contributing factor in Spitzweg’s 1887 retrospective, organized two years after his death by The Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts (Společnost vlasteneckých přátel umění, SVPU) and opening on February 9 in Rudolfinum, the SVPU’s exhibition space at the time. The show featured 118 artworks, all of which were listed in the catalogue, including their titles and owner. These works offered an informative overview of Spitzweg’s oeuvre. The show featured The Poor Poet, Spitzweg’s first and most well-known painting, created in 1893. This painting is among the group of artworks that remained property of Spitzweg’s heirs. Based on indications in the catalogue, more than 20 paintings were for sale, mostly genre paintings and landscapes with figural staffage, of which some were unsigned. The vast majority of the exhibited artworks were borrowed from private collectors, listed in the catalogue. They were primarily aristocrats, such as Countess Schwarzenberg, Count Trautmannsdorf, Count Franz Thun and Count Camil Rohan; the largest set came from Count Carl Auersperg who lent seven paintings including the famous canvas The Sleeping Guard (now in the National Gallery Prague).
As the reviews suggest, Spitzweg was positively received in the Prague milieu because of his ability to combine landscape and genre painting in a balanced way. However, he was occasionally criticized for being “overly sentimental,” even though his sense for mood and light, along with charming colours, were precisely why the public was attracted to his works.
Konrad Bitterli, Carl Spitzweg, München 2021
Vít Vlnas (ed.), Obrazárna v Čechách 1796–1918 (exh. cat.), Národní galerie v Praze 1996, pp. 51, 140, 185, 243
Taťána Petrasová – Roman Prahl (edd.), Mnichov – Praha: Výtvarné umění mezi tradicí a modernou, Praha 2012, pp. 130–134
Sigfried Wichmann, Spitzweg auf der Reise nach Prag mit Postkutsche, Eisenbahn und Dampfschiff von ihm eigenhändig aufnotiert und illustriert, München 1963
Roman Prahl, Malíř Carl Spitzweg a jeho pražská agenda, in: Jiří Kroupa – Michaela Šeferisová Loudová – Lubomír Konečný (edd.), Orbis artium: k jubileu Lubomíra Slavíčka, Brno 2009, pp. 362–369
R., Spitzwegova výstava, Národní listy XXVII, 1887, no. 46, 16. 2., p. 5pdf
R. T. – á [Renata Tyršová], Výstava Spitzwegova, Světozor XXI, 1886–1887, no. 13, 25. 2., p. 206pdf
Anonymous author, Denní zprávy, Národní listy XXI, 1887, no. 38, 8. 2. 1887, p. 2
Anonymous author, Výtvarné umění, Zlatá Praha IV, 1887, no. 11, 4. 2., p. 175