Artists: Franz Xaver Winterhalter (Germany, 1806-73)



Figure 1.--This portrait was entitled the "First of May". It was painted in 1851 and appears to be Prince Arthur with his parents Victoria and Albert and the Duke of Wellington, Arthur's Godfather.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter was a portrait and historical painter popular with European royalty, but today not very highly regarded. He was born in Menzenschwand and educated in Munich. He was apointed court painter at Karlsruhe in 1828. He first received attention with his portariat of Grand Duke Leopold of Baden (Kaarlsruhe Gallery). He settled in Paris in 1834 and became the most fashionable portarit painter of that period. He has left is a remarable record of European royalty. His best known portraits are those of King Louis Philippe and his queen (France), Queen Victoria's family (Britain), Empress Eugénie (France), William I and his queen (Prussia), Emperor Maximilian (Mexico), and the wife of Rimski-Korsakov. He was Victoria and Albert's favorite portrait painter. He painted two of the most famous portrits used by HBC, both in the mid-1840s. One of course is the young Edward VII wearing a white sailor suit. The other is of the young royal family. His work are both elegant and idealized representations, rather poor in quality and lacking in color, but well drawn and arranged. Some of his most highly regarded historical paintings are 'Florinda' and 'Susana and the Elders'. Art critics of the day panned him, but his historical importance is undeniable.

Birth

Winterhalter was born in Menzenschwand and . a small village in the Black Forest. Although German by birth, his work never received as high acclaim in the German states at it did in other European countries like Briotain and France.

Education

Franz Xaver was educated in Freiburg and Munich. He left home to study painting at the academy of Monaco. He trained as a draughtsman and lithographer in the workshop of Karl Ludwig Schüler (1785-1852) in Freiburg im Breisgau and went to Munich in 1823, sponsored by the industrialist Baron Eichtal. In 1825 he began a course of study at the Akademie and was granted a stipend by Ludwig I, Grand Duke of Baden. The theoretical approach to art of the Akademie under the direction of Peter Cornelius was unfamiliar to him, as in Freiburg he had been required to paint in a popular style. He found the stimulus for his future development in the studio of Joseph Stieler, a portrait painter who was much in demand and who derived inspiration from French painting. Winterhalter became his collaborator in 1825. From Stieler he learnt to make the heads of figures emerge from shadow and to use light in the modelling of faces. He moved to Karlsruhe in 1830 with his brother Hermann Winterhalter (1808-92), who had also trained with Schüler and had followed him to Munich.

Career

He was apointed court painter at Karlsruhe in 1828. Before becoming court painter to Louis-Philippe, the king of France, he joined a circle of French artists in Rome. He first received attention with his portariat of Grand Duke Leopold of Baden (Kaarlsruhe Gallery). After he painted the German Grand Duke and Duchess of Badew in 1835, Winterhalter's international career as a court portrait painter was launched. He settled in Paris in 1834 and became the most fadshionable portarit painter of that period. Although he never received high praise for his work in his native Germany, the royal families of England, France, and Belgium all commissioned him to paint portraits. Most of European royalty sat for him, and his decorative pictures of court figures are in leading European galleries. His best known portraits are those of King Louis Philippe and his queen (france), Queen Victoria's family (Britain), Empress Eugénie (France), William I and his quuen (Prussia), Emperor Maximilian (Mexico), and the wife of Rimski-Korsakov. Winterhalter began an official portrait of Empress Eugénie shortly after her marriage in 1853 to Napoleon III, Emperor of France, but it was not exhibited until 1855. His monumental canvases established a substantial popular reputation, and lithographic copies of the portraits helped to spread his fame.

Portraits

Winterhalter's portraits were prized for their subtle intimacy, but his popularity among patrons came from his ability to create the image his sitters wished or needed to project to their subjects. He was able to capture the moral and political climate of each court, adapting his style to each client until it seemed as if his paintings acted as press releases, issued by a master of public relations.

Assessment

Franz Xaver Winterhalter was a portrait and historical painter popular with European royaly, but today not very highly regarded. His work are both elegant and idealized representations, rather poor in quality and lacking in colorm but well drawn and arranged. His style was romantic, glossy, and superficial and his portraits have until recently generally been valued more as historical records than as works of art. Art critics of the day panned him, but his historical importance is undeniable.



Figure 2.--We were not not sure who the subject was of this Winterhalter portrait. Note the green velvet and lace collar. We now know the painting was 'Countess Krasinka/Krasińska and her children' (1853). We had thought that yhe large belt suggests that the child was a boy, but it fact the countess was enbracing her daughter Maria Beatrix. The other two children are her sons Zygmunt and Władysław. Maria and Władysław are dressed alike. Winterhalter painted other portraitgs of the Countess.

Queen Victioria

Winterhalter was Victoria and Albert's favorite portrait painter. Victoria called him "excellent, delightful Winterhalter" The British the royal collection has more than a hundred of his paintings. Winterhalter's emergence with the English royals began in 1842. Up to that time, the Queen's dealt with different portrait painters. The English artists, John Lucas and John Partridge, had produced competent likenesses of the Queen and Prince Albert. Lucas, indeed, in 1842, painted in London portraits of the Queen's uncle Mensdorff as well as the Prince's father and elder brother, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The commission in 1842 to paint the companion portrait of the Duchess was given to Winterhalter. The Queen thought it "perfect". Winterhalter had been recommended to the Queen, for his easy-going nature as much as for his artistic skill, by the Queen's beloved aunt Louise, Queen of the Belgians. Winterhalter had worked for her and for her father, the French King, and by coming to London Winterhalter would be enlarging the circle of European courts at which he was to be so successful.

Queen Victoria had acquired, before his arrival in London May 1842, at least three portraits of her relations, including the little Prince Philip of Württemburg, and the portrait of Queen Louise and her elder son. These are painted in the rather hard, smooth manner which still bears traces of his years of study in Freiburg im Breisgau and Munich. With Queen Victoria he was an instant success. He became, in her words, a "personal, attached friend of more than 30 years standing"; she did not hesitate to compare him with Veronese and Van Dyck and she greeted (almost) every new portrait with unqualified admiration. Between 1842 and 1861 he probably paid fifteen visits to England. It was Winterhalter ho painted the classic portrait of Prince Bertie in his sailor suit (1846). We are less sure what Prince Albert thought of him. Winterhalter was still in touch with the Queen in 1870. When he died 3 years later the Queen described his death to the Crown Princess as "terrible" and "quite irreparable"; and in the eyes of the Crown Princess, "There was not another portrait painter like him in the world". Certainly he had produced for the Queen a range of family portraits unsurpassed in quantity by any other painter in the history of the royal portrait in Britain. His portraits are extremely accomplished, very well put together, credible and with something of the sympathy--indeed, the kindliness--and something of the panache and the delight in the lively handling of paint that Winterhalter would have admired in the portraits of Lawrence which he would have seen in Queen Victoria's houses. Certainly no portrait painter in England since the time of Winterhalter has produced such accomplished, convincing and sensitive portraits of--or for--his royal patrons. He painted two of the most famous portrits used by HBC, both in the mid-1840s. One of course is the young Edward VII wearing a white sailor suit. The other is of the young royal family.

Historical Work

Some of his most highly regarded historical paintings are 'Florinda' and 'Susana and the Elders'. Empress Eugénie is thought to have posed for his Florinda. Period art critics wer otimpressed.




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Created: May 24, 2001
Last updated: 6:22 PM 10/17/2017