Oil on canvas; 191 cm x 255 cm
Hans Makart was a 19th century Austrian academic history painter, designer, and decorator; known for his influence on Gustav Klimt. He received his first training at the Vienna Academy in 1850-51 from Johann Fischbach. At that time, German art was under the rule of a classicism, entirely intellectual and academic—clear and precise drawing, sculpturesque modeling, and pictorial erudition. Makart was impatient to escape the routine of art school drawing. He was found by his instructors to be devoid of talent and expelled him. He went to Munich, and attracted the attention of von Piloty, under whose guidance he developed his style. Makart traveled to London, Paris and Rome to further his studies. The first picture he painted under Piloty, "Lavoisier in Prison", though it was considered timid and conventional, attracted attention by its sense of color.
In his next work, The Knight and the Water Nymphs, he displayed the decorative qualities which became his trademark. His fame became established in the next year, with two works, Modern Amoretti and The Plague in Florence. His painting Romeo and Juliet was purchased by the Austrian emperor for the Vienna Museum, and Makart was invited to come to Vienna by the aristocracy. The prince Von Hohenlohe provided Makart with an old foundry to use as a studio. He gradually turned it into an impressive place full of sculptures, flowers, musical instruments, requisites and jewelery that he used to create classical settings for his portraits. Eventually his studio became a social meeting point in Vienna.
The "Makartstil", which determined the culture of an entire era in Vienna, was an aestheticism the likes of which hadn’t been seen before him and has not been replicated to this day. Called the "magician of colors", he painted in brilliant colors and fluid forms, which placed the design and the aesthetic of the work before all else. Often to heighten the strength of his colors he introduced asphalt into his paint, which has led to some deterioration in his paintings over the years. The paintings were usually large-scale and theatrical productions of historical motifs. Works such as The Papal Election reveal Makart’s skill in the bold use of color to convey drama as well as his later developed virtuoso draughtsmanship.
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