Hermann Kauffmann the elder (1808-1889)
Oil on canvas, signed and inscribed Hamburg
53 x 79 cm.
Hermann Kauffmann's scenes of rural life are now very much in vogue but toward the end of his career his descriptive, narrative form of landscape and genre painting was no longer at the height of fashion. During fifty years of an outstanding career he produced a large number of landscapes, rural and genre works as well as portraits, which can now be found among many private collections. A large number of bis works can be found among public collections, including 22 works at the Hamburg Kunsthalle and 12 at the National Gallery of Berlin. Other works by him are housed at the Landesmuseum Darmstadt, the Kunsthalle Kiel, the Stadtmuseum Leipzig, the Behn-Haus Lubeck as well as museums at Dresden, Baden-Baden, Munich, Prague and elsewhere.
Kauffmann was born in Hamburg on 7* November 1808. He began his training in Hamburg 1824, in the studio of the history and portrait painter Gerdt Hardorff' the elder (1769-1864), where he copied plaster models and with Georg Haeselich (1806-94) made his own studies from nature. He made his debut in 1826 when he showed five works at the Hamburg Arts Society. During the course of his career he also exhibited elsewhere in Hamburg, in Berlin, Hanover, and Munich.
Through an association with a fellow artist, Johann Adam Klein (1792-1875), Kauffmann was encouraged to go to Munich. Arriving in 1827 he joined a circle of landscape painters that included Georg Haeselich, Jakob Gensler (1808-45) and Franz Heesche (1806-76) who with Christian Morgenstrn (1805-67) were working enplein air. Among other works, the Hamburg Kunsthalle own two examples of Kaujfmann 's work from this period dated 1829, namely 'Upper Bavarian Landscape' and 'Mountain Valley in Upper Bavaria'. Typical of his early style, they are worked in fresh colours and are full of descriptive imagery and poetic emotion. Due to domestic circumstances at home, in 1833 Kauffmann moved back to Hamburg. Here he continued his practice as an able portrait painter and also began choosing subjects from peasant life, domestic and farm animals. He also portrayed some wonderful landscapes of Bavaria, the Lüneburg Heath, the Elbe estuary and Schleswig-Holstein.
During the 1830's and 1840's Kauffmann came under the influence of the popular Munich genre painters such as Heinrich Burke/ (1802-69) and as such his paintings became more anecdotal but never sentimental. Many works from this period contain large figure groups such as "Bear Dance in the Village' of 1836, (Hamburg Kunsthalle). In 1843 he toured Norway, where he made a series of landscape studies described with great sincerity and freshness of style. He also travelled to the Black forest in I856 and went on painting expeditions to the Upper Bavarian Highlands. On occasion his son Hugo Wilbelm (1844-1915) accompanied him. The latter specialised as an animal and genre painter. In turn his own son Hermann Kauffmann the younger (b. 1873) became an artist, specialising in portrait, genre and miniature painting.
By the 1850's Kauffmann's style bad become looser and more atmospheric. His colours became almost monochromatic and bis compositions included fewer figures as evident in the present work as well as Timber Cart in the Snow' of 1858, (Hamburg Kunsthalle). Toward the end of his career be painted fewer full-scale oils in favour of small vivid watercolour studies from nature. He had always loved his native city of Hamburg, which with its environs provided him witb-a wealth of subject matter. He remained there until be died on 24th May 1889