Carl Spitzweg was born in February 1808 in the town of Unterpfaffenhofen, Bavaria. Coming from a wealthy family, young Carl studied to become a pharmacist but eventually became a full-time artist. He is famous for his nearly fairly-tale-like Romanticist paintings and was the leading name of the Biedermeier, a significant Era in German art.
Spitzweg was admitted to the University of Munich, following his father’s wishes to become a pharmacist, but it was while he was home and sick that he realized his passion for painting. With no formal training, young Spitzweg practiced by observing and copying the works of Flemish painters. It was only by the age of twenty-five, after receiving a family inheritance, that he was able to take painting as a profession without fear of financial repercussion. Spitzweg became a full-time painter in 1833; before then, the artist had only submitted his work to satire magazine publications.
By 1815, the Biedermeier period began in Germany, an effect of the growing middle class. This period was marked by the flourishment in multiple artistic areas like music, literature, design, and visual arts, and the somewhat optimistic view of the artists upon life. The Realist German painters of this era would often portray the world with a more sentimental viewpoint, focusing on feelings of simplicity and security. Spitzweg became one of the leading names of the Biedermeier.
Although Carl was a self-taught artist, he strived to learn and perfect his craft the best way he could. He traveled to major cities like Paris, London, Venice, Prague, and Belgium, all bursting with art and culture to explore. Spitzweg’s work would eventually transpire in other artistic fields, as the composer Edmund Nick wrote Das Kleine Hofkonzert, a musical comedy, inspired by his paintings.
One of Carl Spitzweg’s etchings entitled Playing Piano was part of the infamous Gurlitt Collection. Also known as the Munich Art Hoard, the collection consists of over 1500 artworks. In 2012, it was taken from the owner from the authorities with the intent of investigating a possible Nazi loot. The collection returned to the owner two years later, but unfortunately near his death.
The simplicity of the painter’s themes is captivating, as seen in The Botanist, a simple portrayal of a man sitting in with an umbrella in nature. Some of his figures are almost characters of people, like The Writer. The use of natural lighting and his bright color palette brings an uplifting mood to his paintings. The Bookworm shows a darker environment, but the warm beam of light that emerges from the top right corner brightens even the darkest corners.
Carl Spitzweg passed away at the age of 77 in September 1885, in Munich. His bright and uplifting work marked a generation of German artists. A curious event occurred in the late thirties when a group of fraudulent criminals sold a series of more than fifty copies as originals, and they were convicted for ten years.