Monday, March 20, 2017

The Berlin Congress

Title: Der Berliner Kongreß 1878 (The Berlin Congress, 1878)
Artist: Anton von Werner
Date: 1881

 At the height of the socialist scare in the early summer of 1878, international affairs also demanded Bismarck’s attention. The Berlin Congress was convened from June 13 to July 13, 1878, as an international meeting to solve the Balkans question in the wake of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Bismarck offered his services as an “honest broker” [ehrlicher Makler], thereby scoring a major diplomatic triumph. Originally, the Berlin senate hoped to organize a festive reception to mark the conclusion of the congress. But when the plan went awry, it used the allocated money to commission this painting from Anton von Werner (1843-1915). On March 22, 1881, the Kaiser’s 84th birthday, the artist presented the painting to the Berlin city fathers. Werner’s painting highlights a number of important participants in the congress, including British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), seen at the left. The real focus of the viewer’s attention, however, is the trio in the immediate foreground, and, even more specifically, the handshake between Bismarck and the second-ranking Russian diplomat in attendance, Count Pyotr A. Schuvalov (1827-1889). The Austro-Hungarian representative, Count Gyula Andrássy (1823-1890), looks on. That Schuvalov enjoyed such good relations with Bismarck angered the leader of the Russian delegation, Prince Alexander M. Gorchakov (1798-1883) (seated at the left), who subsequently ensured that his career went downhill. Among the men standing at far right are Lord Salisbury, the British foreign secretary, and Lord Odo Russell, the British ambassador in Berlin (third and fourth from the end, respectively). The foreground handshake was partially orchestrated by the artist himself, who wanted the viewer to be able to focus on a relatively intimate group, as opposed to an undifferentiated collection of diplomats. But this still did not prevent critics from complaining that Werner had painted only a “cabinet of wax figures.” Werner had even suggested the setting, for the room in which the handshake took place was better lit than the one in which the main negotiations were held. 


Monday, October 3, 2016

British Grenadiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill

Title: Battle of Bunker Hill
Artist: Edward Percy Moran
Date: 1909

A depiction of the battle of Bunker Hill by Edward Percy Moran (1862-1935), known for his scenes of American history. This significant battle took place on 17 June 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War. The battle is named after the adjacent Bunker Hill. Although the uniform details are inaccurate, the formation of the British grenadiers advancing uphill toward the Americans behind prepared positions is largely representative of the closeorder formation used by the British during their assault. After the experience of the retreat from Lexington, British commander Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage ordered his men to form in two rather than three ranks but retained the close-order formation. Although Gage attempted to outflank the American position, a quick reaction by American commanders frustrated British efforts and resulted in a sustained firefight on unequal terms. The British grenadiers were ordered to assault the American lines with the bayonet but their close-order formations made it difficult for them to cross several fences and as the formations lost cohesion the grenadiers lost momentum. As a result many grenadiers began to fire at the enemy rather than carry home their charge. In the aftermath of Bunker Hill British commanders understood that the bayonet was the most effective weapon against the untrained Americans. Conversely, American commanders realized that effective use of terrain and cover, including walls, fences, and woods, could negate some of the lethal nature of the British bayonet charge.

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Book "Continental versus Redcoat: American Revolutionary War" by David Bonk

In the Troops Quarter Outside Paris

Title: Im Etappenquartier vor Paris (A Billet outside Paris)
Artist: Anton von Werner
Date: 24 October 1870 - 1894

This painting by Anton von Werner (1843-1915) was completed in 1894 and purchased the same year by the National Gallery in Berlin (surprisingly, it was the first Werner painting the National Gallery acquired). The sketch forming the basis of his painting, however, had been executed twenty-four years earlier: on October 24, 1870, when the artist was accompanying Chief of the Prussian General Staff Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891) and his entourage in occupied France. The finished work shows German troops occupying the Château de Brunoy outside Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. To be sure, Werner documents every detail of the scene and the setting – right down to the inexpertly repaired boot sole at the right. But his principal aim is to emphasize the contrast between the vigorous, ruddy-cheeked troops, with their practical mud-covered footwear, and the sumptuous, effeminate interior they have requisitioned for temporary lodgings. This contrast is conveyed not least by Werner’s palette – the soldiers, dressed in blue uniforms with red piping, are rendered in dark primary colors, thereby standing out against an interior awash in pastels and dominated by the warm yellow of gilded surfaces. In this and other pictorial choices, Werner seems to suggest German cultural superiority over the French. For example, the soldiers have not, as in the age-old manner, destroyed the furniture at hand to light a fire and revenge themselves on the enemy; instead, they have taken the time to gather wood on the villa’s grounds, seen just outside the window at rear. And while the soldiers look dirty and rumpled, they are not necessarily rough-hewn. In fact, they have enough good German Bildung – education and “cultivation” – to play the piano and give voice to song in an impromptu concert. (According to Werner’s notes, they were singing Franz Schubert's setting of Heine's poem “Das Meer erglänzte weit hinaus” [“The Sea Shone Resplendent far into the Distance”], which, as he added, was very popular with all the military bands at that time). This history lesson would not have been lost on German viewers of the painting in 1894. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to portray Werner’s politics as illiberal or chauvinist. He had no need to make the enemy appear despicable: except for the villa’s female concierge and her daughter, who appear to be suffering none of the hardships inflicted upon the Parisian population at the time, the French have simply disappeared from the scene. The mood of good humor is further reinforced by the elaborate clock and vases on the mantle – their very presence suggesting that no looting has been committed by the occupying troops. These choices make the painting even more melodramatic and contrived, undercutting its apparently disinterested virtuosity. What conclusions do we draw from this? On the one hand, the very fact that patriotic painting of this sort had achieved such popularity by the 1890s may indicate that, by the turn-of-the-century, the chauvinism so vehemently criticized by Friedrich Nietzsche after 1871 had evolved into something that was, if not more generous to French victimhood or forgiving of German brutality, then at least more innocuous. Tellingly, when contemporary viewers commented upon Werner’s portrayal of soldiers lounging disrespectfully on the furniture of a beautiful French château, they found this aspect amusing, not offensive. On the other hand, such public reaction may reflect the philistine complacency that Nietzsche also identified as characteristic of post-unification German society. 

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Gideon von Laudon at the Battlefield of Kunersdorf

Title: Gideon von Laudon nach seinem Sieg über das Schlachtfeld bei Kunersdorf reitend (Gideon von Laudon riding after the victory over the battlefield of Kunersdorf)
Artist: Siegmund L'Allemand
Date: 1878

Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon (German: Ernst Gideon Freiherr von Laudon (originally Laudohn or Loudon) (February 2, 1717 – July 14, 1790) was an Austrian generalisimo, one of the most successful opponents of the Prussian king Frederick the Great, allegedly lauded by Alexander Suvorov as his teacher. He served the position of military governorship of Habsburg Serbia from his capture of Belgrade in 1789 until his death, cooperating with the resistance fighters of Koča Anđelković.

The Battle of Kunersdorf, fought in the Seven Years' War, was Frederick the Great's most devastating defeat. On August 12, 1759, near Kunersdorf (Kunowice), east of Frankfurt (Oder), 50,900 Prussians were defeated by a combined allied army 65,000 strong consisting of 41,000 Russians and 24,000 Austrians under Pyotr Saltykov. Only 3,000 soldiers from the original 50,900 comprising the Prussian army returned to Berlin after the battle, though many more had only scattered and were ultimately able to join the army afterward.

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Celebration on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Military Order of Maria Theresa

Title: Celebration on the occasion of the anniversary of the Military Order of Maria Theresa
Artist: Siegmund L'Allemand
Date: 1861

Glittering chandeliers, elaborately decorated table centres and heavily gold-braided military uniforms all contribute to the splendour of this sumptuous State occasion. The Military Order of Maria Theresa became Austria's senior award for war services when it was founded by the Empress Maria Theresa in 1757. The Order is in the shape of a symmetrical jewelled cross with the simple inscription, "Fortitudini" (for bravery) on the reverse. Worn with the Order is a scarlet edged white sash, which in this 1861 Anniversary painting can be seen worn by the Archduke raising his glass in a final toast.

This impressive canvas was painted by Siegmund L'Allemand, a notable Austrian artist. Born in Vienna in 1840, L'Allemand had his first painting lessons from his uncle Fritz L'Allemand. He later studied under Ruben and Karl Blaas and eventually in 1883 he succeeded them as professor of the Viennese Academy. L'Allemand has successfully humanised his portrayal of this very formal banquet. Chairs have been pushed back from the table, upon which many already empty decanters can be seen. In the foreground the waiters anxiously scan the room, ready with more full wine bottles. Plumed military helmets are piled on side tables; the faces of the military officers around the huge table are clearly recognisable. In this very masculine scene the only feminine touch is the sculpture of the Empress herself, presiding majestically over the proceedings. The original painting, which is quite massive, can be found in the Billiard Room of the Schloss Schönbrunn museum in Vienna.

From 1883 Siegmund L'Allemand served as a professor, and later the head of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. An interesting footnote is that he chaired the admissions committee that in 1907 rejected admission to a young aspiring art student named Adolf Hitler. 

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The storming of Königsberg by Austrian Army

Title: Die Erstürmung des Königsberges bei Oberselk durch das k.u.k. 18. Jägerbataillon am 3. Februar 1864 (The storming of Königsberg in Oberselk by Austrian 18th Infantry Battalion on 3 February 1864)
Artist: Siegmund L'Allemand
Date: 1864

This impressive canvas was painted by Siegmund L'Allemand (8 March 1840 - 24 December 1910), a notable Austrian artist. Born in Vienna in 1840, L'Allemand had his first painting lessons from his uncle Fritz L'Allemand. He later studied under Ruben and Karl Blaas and eventually in 1883 he succeeded them as professor of the Viennese Academy.From 1883 Siegmund L'Allemand served as a professor, and later the head of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. An interesting footnote is that he chaired the admissions committee that in 1907 rejected admission to a young aspiring art student named Adolf Hitler!

Source :'Allemand_Die_Erst%C3%BCrmung_des_K%C3%B6nigsberges_bei_Oberselk_1864.jpg

Friedrich The Great after the Seven years' War

Title: Friedrich der Große nach dem Siebenjährigen Krieg in der Eosander-Kapelle von Schloss Charlottenburg (Frederick The Great after the Seven years' War in the Eosander Chapel of Schloss Charlottenburg)
Artist: Arthur Kampf
Date: 1889

King Friedrich II of Prussia sitting in a chair while listening to the sounds of a choir. Kampf characterize the powerful ruler in a highly expressive and gloom mood. Large Format main work of the artist from his early Berlin period of creativity.

Arthur Kampf studied at the art academy in Düsseldorf under Peter Janssen the Elder.  Afterwards he took a position as an assistant teacher initially and then as a professor at the academy.  In 1898 he moved to Berlin.  Here he became a member and later President of the Royal Academy of Arts.  From 1915 to 1925 he was director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. As a history painter Kampf created numerous monumental commissions and paintings with allegorical and historical or war themes. The majority of Kampf's oeuvre is now lost or was destroyed in the war

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Danish Soldiers in the Trenches of Dybbøl (1864)

Title: Kampene ved Dybbøl, 1864 (The Battle of Dybbøl, 1864)
Artist: Jørgen Valentin Sonne
Date: 1871

The Battle of Dybbøl (Danish: Slaget ved Dybbøl; German: Erstürmung der Düppeler Schanzen) was the key battle of the Second Schleswig War and occurred on the morning of 18 April 1864 following a siege starting on 7 April. Denmark suffered a severe defeat against Prussia, which decided the war. Dybbøl was also a battlefield in the First Schleswig War.

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Danish Attack at Dybbøl (1864)

Title: Ottende brigades angreb ved Dybbøl 18. april 1864 (Eighth Brigade's attack at Dybbøl 18 April 1864)
Artist: Vilhelm Rosenstand
Date: 1894

On the morning of 18 April 1864 at Dybbøl, the Prussians moved into their positions at 2.00. At 10.00 the Prussian artillery bombardment stopped and the Prussians charged through shelling from the Rolf Krake which did not prove enough to halt them. Thirteen minutes after the charge, the Prussian infantry had already seized control of the first line of defence of the redoubts.

A total massacre of the retreating troops was avoided and the Prussian advance halted by a counter-attack by the 8th Brigade, until a Prussian attack threw them back; that attack advanced about 1 km and reached Dybbøl Mill. In that counter-attack the 8th Brigade lost about half their men, dead or wounded or captured. This let the remnants of 1st and 3rd Brigades escape to the pier opposite Sønderborg. At 13.30 the last resistance collapsed at the bridgehead in front of Sønderborg. After that there was an artillery duel across the Alssund.

During the battle around 3,600 Danes and 1,200 Prussians were either killed, wounded or disappeared. A Danish official army casualty list at the time said: 671 dead; 987 wounded, of whom 473 were captured; 3,131 unwounded captured and/or deserters; total casualties 4,789. The 2nd and 22nd Regiments lost the most. Also, the crew of the Danish naval ship Rolf Krake suffered one dead, 10 wounded.

The Battle of Dybbøl was the first battle monitored by delegates of the Red Cross: Louis Appia and Charles van de Velde. Following the battle, the Prussians used the fort area as a starting point to attack Als in June 1864.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Prince Alfred of England

Title: Prince Alfred of England
Artist: Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Date: 1865

Oil on canvas, 74.4 x 61.4 cm. Winterhalter was born in the Black Forest where he was encouraged to draw at school. In 1818 he went to Freiburg to study under Karl Ludwig Schüler and then moved to Munich in 1823, where he attended the Academy and studied under Josef Stieler, a fashionable portrait painter. Winterhalter was first brought to the attention of Queen Victoria by the Queen of the Belgians and subsequently painted numerous portraits at the English court from 1842 till his death. Prince Alfred (1844–1900), aged 21, is wearing naval uniform with the star of the Garter. He was the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and joined the navy when he was 14 years old, in August 1858. He served on the Euryalus and sailed to the Mediterranean, South Africa, and the West Indies, returning home in August 1861. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1863 and, after a career in the navy, was made Admiral of the Fleet in 1893. Signed and dated: Fr Winterhalter / 1865. Inscribed on the back with the names of the artist and sitter and as painted at the Rosenau, August 1865.

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