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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Andreas and Oswald Achenbach

Storm on the Sea at the Norwegian Coast, 1837, Andreas Achenbach
In the past I've written often about father and son artists, sometimes even as many as three or four generations of artists of the same family. However, seldom, perhaps never, have I written about two brothers, the younger taught by the elder, who have both been outstanding artists. That's not to say that both have been equally outstanding. That's unlikely in any case. Andreas Achenbach was the elder of the two by twelve years. Oswald was the younger brother, born in 1827. His older brother was born in 1815. Both were German, both born in Kassel (central Germany), though the family moved to Munich in 1835 when Oswald was around eight. By the time the younger of the two would have been old enough to benefit from art instruction, Andreas would have been in his early twenties and about to embark on his career as a landscape painter.

View of the Doge's Palace and St. Marco, Oswald Achenbach
As one might judge in comparing Andreas Achenbach's Storm on the Sea at the Norwegian Coast (top) with Oswald Achenbach's View of The Doge's Palace and St. Marco (above), there is little more than superficial similarities between the two brothers' work. Andreas' style is quite literal while that of his brother, Oswald, tends more toward Romanticism. The two brothers were sometiems referred to as the "A" and "O" (alpha and omega) of German landscape painting.

Andreas, 1815-1910
Oswald, 1827-1905
II's not known what type of personal relationship the two brothers may have had. Andreas was apparently the oldest of the family's ten children. Oswald was the fifth-born, and by far the more talented of the two. Whatever talent either of the boys displayed did not come from their father's side of the family. Nothing is known of their mother, Christine, but their father, Hermann, was employed in a series of jobs, including beer and vinegar brewer, guesthouse owner, and bookkeeper. Both his sons studied at the Dusseldorf Academy of Painting (below). The younger son, perhaps because of his older brother's early tutelage, started his training there at the tender age of eight, at a time when the minimum age for enrollment was twelve. He had finished his studies by the time he was fourteen, even having spent a full year studying architecture.

The Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, 1831, Andreas Achenbach
Andreas Achenbach studied at St Petersburg, though his studies also included travels in Italy, Holland and Scandinavia. In his early work he followed the pseudo-idealism of the German Romantic school, but in moving to Munich, the stronger influence of Louis Gurlitt turned his talent toward German Realism. The elder Achenbach is sometimes criticized in that his landscapes seem aimed too much at picture-making (below) while lacking personal temperament. Nonetheless, he was a master of technique, bearing some importance historically as a reformer.
Westphalian Mill, 1869, Andreas Achenbach

In 1843, Oswald Achenbach, still only sixteen, began a journey of several months through Upper Bavaria and North Tyrol where he continued his nature studies. His earliest known works in oil come from this period. Two years later, Achenbach undertook a journey to northern Italy. The paintings Achenbach completed from this period predominantly consist of Italian landscape scenes such as his Venetian panorama, View of the Doge's Palace and St. Marco. Although few of Achenbach's paintings from before 1850 survive today, those that do indicate that his early choices of subject matter and technique were heavily influenced by the art academies of the time. In the oil studies that Achenbach produced during these trips, he adhered closely to landscapes and details of the typical Italian vegetation. Architectural motifs, figures, and other elements play a lesser role than in his more mature work (below).

Triumphal Arch In Rome, 1886, Achenbach Oswald.
Well into the 19th-century, art training in Germany was strongly influenced by the art academies. These academies became extremely formal, rigid, and not at all responsive to new artistic movements. The academies also organized the major exhibitions through which artists sold most of their work. As a result, artists who were opposed to the ideas of the academies were seldom exhibited and had few opportunities to sell. Eventually though, individual artists and representatives of entire artistic movements began to stand in opposition to the culture and concepts of the Academies. Oswald Achenbach was one such artist who opposed the Düsseldorf Academy. He became an early member of the "Association of Düsseldorf Artists for Mutual Support and Help" and the association "Malkasten" ("Paintbox"), organized in 1848, with Achenbach as one of the original original founders. These Associations jointly staged plays, organized music evenings and put on exhibitions.

Outbreak of Vesuvius, 1872, painted in 1890, OswaldAchenbach.
During the summer of 1850, Achenbach took a third trip to Italy, including Nizza, Genoa, and Rome. Together with Albert Flamm, he traveled from Rome into the surrounding countryside and visited the areas where earlier landscape painters had been inspired. Achenbach's surviving studies indicate he was not much interested in details, but instead, concentrated on the characteristic colors, forms, and the distribution of light and shadow (bottom). His work focused on his color impressions, with layers of paint in different thicknesses laid in over one another to find the desired tone (not far removed from Impressionism).

Marktplatz Amalfi, Oswald Achenbach
By the time Achenbach returned home, his paintings were already well-known internationally. In 1852, still only twenty-five years of age, the Art Academy in Amsterdam admitted him as a member. Several of his works were well received in Paris at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. During the following years, Oswald Achenbach was honored with a gold medal at the Salon Exhibition in Paris; granted an honorary membership to the St Petersburg Academy; and in 1862 membership in the Art Academy of Rotterdam. Achenbach followed Hans Gude as Professor of Landscape painting at the Academy. After 1866 he taught one of the highly regarded "Master Classes." He emphasized the decisive role of light and dark for the composition of paintings, a role more important than the choice of subject. He advised his students to familiarize themselves with the paintings of J.M.W. Turner. Of course, he also recommended the works of his "big brother," Andreas.

Ice. . .
Snowy Forest, 1835, Andreas Achenbach
and Fire--
A Mountainous Landscape, Oswald Achenbach


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