Hans Makart (28 May 1840 – 3
October 1884) was a 19th-century Austrian academic history
painter, designer, and decorator; most well known for his
influence on Gustav Klimt and other Austrian artists, but in
his own era considered an important artist himself and a
celebrity figure in the high culture of Vienna, attended
with almost cult-like adulation.
Makart was the son of a chamberlain at the Mirabell Palace,
born in the former residence of the prince-archbishops of
Salzburg. Initially, he received his training in painting at
the Vienna Academy between 1850 and 1851 from Johann
Fischbach. While in the Academy, German art was under the
rule of a classicism, which was entirely intellectual and
academic—clear and precise drawing, sculpturesque modelling,
and pictorial erudition were esteemed above all. Makart, who
was a poor draughtsman, but who had a passionate and sensual
love of color, was impatient to escape the routine of art
school drawing. For his fortune, he was found by his
instructors to be devoid of all talent and forced to leave
the Vienna Academy.
He went to Munich, and after two years of independent study
attracted the attention of Karl Theodor von Piloty, under
whose guidance, between 1861 and 1865 he developed his
painting style. During these years, Makart also travelled 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 first displayed the
decorative qualities to which he afterwards sacrificed
everything else in his work. His fame became established in
the next year, with two works, Modern Amoretti and The
Plague in Florence. His painting Romeo and Juliet was soon
after bought 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 at the Gusshausstraße 25
to use as a studio. He gradually turned it into an
impressive place full of sculptures, flowers, musical
instruments, requisites and jewellery that he used to create
classical settings for his portraits, mainly of women.
Eventually his studio looked like a salon and became a
social meeting point in Vienna. Cosima Wagner described it
as a "wonder of decorative beauty, a sublime lumber-room".
His luxurious studio served as a model for a great many
upper middle-class living rooms.
The opulent, semi-public
spaces of the Makart atelier were the scene of a recurring
rendezvous between the artist and his public. Makart became
the mediator between different levels of society: he created
a socially ambiguous sphere in which nobility and
bourgeoisie could encounter one another in mutual veneration
of the master, and aestheticized the burgeoning
self-awareness of the bourgeoisie by means of historical
models drawn from the world of the aristocracy. In this way,
an artist like Makart lived out the image that high society
had created of him.
Makart became the acknowledged leader of the artistic life
of the Vienna, which in the 1870s passed through a period of
feverish activity, the chief results of which are the
sumptuously decorated public buildings of the Ringstraße. He
not only practised painting, but was also an interior
designer, costume designer, furniture designer, and
decorator, and his work decorated most of the public spaces
of the era. His work engendered the term "Makartstil", or "Makart
style", which completely characterized the era.
In 1879, Makart had
designed a pageant organised to celebrate the Silver Wedding
Anniversary of the Imperial couple, emperor Franz Josef and
his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria —he designed, single-handed,
the costumes, scenic setting, and triumphal cars. This
became known as the "Makart-parade", and had given the
people of Vienna the chance to dress up in historical
costumes and be transported back into the past for a few
hours. At the head of the parade was a float for artists,
led by Makart on a white horse. His festivals became an
institution in Vienna which lasted up until the 1960s. In
the same year as the first parade he became a Professor at
the Vienna Academy.
Makart's painting The Entry of Charles V into Antwerp caused
some controversy, because Charles V was depicted arriving in
a procession surrounded by nude virgins; the offense was the
mistaken idea that the nudes had no place in the modern
scene. In the United States, the painting fell under the
proscription of Anthony Comstock, which secured Makart's
fame there. The American public desired at once to see what
Comstock was persecuting, so they could tell whether he was
acting correctly or in error.
In 1882, emperor Franz
Josef ordered the building of the Villa Hermes at Lainz
(near Vienna) for his empress and specified the bedroom
decoration to be inspired from Shakespeare's Midsummer
Night's Dream. Makart designed for him a dreamworld that
still exists at the Villa Hermes as a large painting (1882).
Unfortunately his design was never executed after his early
death in 1884. His collection of antiques and art consisted
of 1083 pieces and was put up for auction by art-dealer H.O.
Salzburg's Makart Square,
or Makartplatz, was named after the painter.
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.
Makart was deeply
interested in the interaction of all the visual arts and
thus in the implementation of the idea of the "total work of
art" which dominated discussions on the arts in the 19th
century. This was the ideal which he realised in magnificent
festivities which he organised and centred on himself. The
1879 Makart-parade was the culmination of these endeavors.
Makart was also a friend of the composer Richard Wagner, and
it can be argued that the two developed the same concepts
and stylistic tendencies in their differing art forms: a
concern for embedding motifs of history and mythology in a
framework of aestheticism, making their respective works
Makart's work, like those
of other academic artists of the time, consisted of
allegorical painting and history painting as seen in
Catherina Carnaro, Dianas Hunt, The Entry of Charles V into
Antwerp, Abundantia, Spring, Summer, The Death of Cleopatra,
The Five Senses, and Bacchus and Ariadne. He was considered
the Austrian rival to the French William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Within Austria, his nearest competitor was considered to be
Hans Canon, and he was associated with the sculptor Viktor
Tilgner, who travelled with him to Italy.
Aside from his clear influence on the academic art and high
culture of Vienna at the time, Makart also influenced a
range of painters and decorators who followed him, including
many who rebelled against his style—the most notable being
Gustav Klimt, who is said to have idolized him. Klimt's
early style is based in historicism and has clear
similarities to Makart's paintings. The entire decorative
focus of Jugendstil, the Austrian Art Nouveau of which Klimt
was a part, arose in an environment in which Makart had put
the decorative aspects of art in the forefront. Some have
also suggested that primacy of sexual symbolism in
Jugendstil artworks were influenced by the sensuality in
many of Makart's paintings.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Portrait of Dora Fournier-Gabillon.
The love letter
An Elegant Lady