ZAGREB – MUNICH : Croatian Painting and Academy of Fine Arts in Munich

Öl auf Leinwand (wohl 1885)
Karl Theodor von Piloty [1826 – 1886]
Objektmaß Öl auf Leinwand
Inventar-Nr.: 13049
Herstellungsort: Deutschland – Süddeutschland – Bayern – München
Malerei / Öl auf Holz
Wilhelm Leibl [1844 – 1900]
Objektmaß 37,0 x 38,8 cm
Inventar-Nr.: 7803

Exhibition “Zagreb – Munich – Croatian painting and Academy of Fine Arts in Munich” shows the cross-section of the Croatian painting of the 19th and early 20th century with emphasis on the fundamental links with the Munich school of painting. Croatian Institute of Art history and Art Pavilion, with this exhibition participate in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and the project “Munich as a European center of art education”.

Akademija likovnih umjetnosti u Muenchenu

In the period from 1808 to 1920 there were all told 13,000 students enrolled, among them representatives of almost all the nations in Europe, as well as from North and South America The amicable attitude to foreign students at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in the period dealt with here and the related cultural and political reasons could be best understood if we observe the personal dossiers of the Munich teachers and the documents of the Ministry of Culture in the Bavarian State Archives. When it was founded in 1808, an equal treatment of foreign students was enjoined. In Article 15, Enrolment of cadets, in the first sentence it says: “Enrolment in education in the Academy is open to all domestic and foreign students irrespectively”. 
We cannot discuss all the reasons for people coming to study in Munich, but it should be said that leading teachers such as Cornelius and Piloty whose renown crossed borders and outweighed political conditions on the map of the forces of Europe, contributed to the arrival of students from many nations. In order to be able to express in terms of art the topics from their national history or episodes from the wars of liberation, for many artists this inevitably meant plumping for Munich for their art education. The erosion and collapse of the multi-national Austrian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires contributed to national self-awareness, and the role that Bavaria played in the liberation of Greece, were determining preconditions in the Academy in Munich become a stage for nationalities and nations in the second half of the 19th century. 

Text: Léon Krempel


History Painting

Government or state commissions for the purpose of decorating and furnishing public premises took off in the 19th century. The historicist spirit of the time siphoned from the historical sources the themes and motifs from national history that were thought likely to contribute to the reinforcement of national pride. The school of history painting at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts led by Karl Theodor von Piloty (1826-1886) became a must for every painter who wanted to master the most demanding compositions, those on a large scale and of emphatic dramaturgy, and many, using a scholarship from their home countries, deliberately went off to study history painting precisely in Munich. Piloty adroitly combined realistic painting of details and theatrical staging, creating the typical Munich-style ideal realism (Idealrealismus) of the grandiloquent historicist painting of the 1860s and 1870s. History painting with marked patriotism and politically current themes that were supposed to contribute to the formation of national awareness was almost exclusively commissioned for the grand institutional premises, but also in smaller format, via prints and oleographic reproductions, found its way to the interiors of middle class salons and houses. A frequent motif in Croatian history painting is the coming of the Croats to the coast of the Adriatic, together with the first Croatian king, Tomislav, and themes about the aristocratic families of Zrinski and Frankopan. 

Landscape painting

In contrast to history painting, landscape painting does not convey any scholarship and has no didactic purpose. In the 19th century, landscape developed as an autonomous painterly kind with its own aesthetics and became the very idea of “true” art. While at the beginning of the 19th century there were doubts as to the correctness of teaching landscapes at the academies, half a century later, they had become an integral part of the curriculum. In addition, the liberalisation of artistic education at the Academy after the middle of the 19th century was to place its emphasis on easel painting, colourism and the painting procedure, unlike the period of P. von Cornelius, who favoured drawing and monumental fresco painting. Painterly academic realism endeavoured to get close to nature in its endeavour to reveal its colour values and riches of motif at a time of burgeoning industrialism and the strong growth of the cities. The Munich school of landscape painting distinguishes two concepts, Stimmungslandschaft, which ascribes a particular value to atmosphere and mood and developed in Viennese painting from Biedermeier on, and Freilichtmalerei, which developed under the influence of the Barbizon school, forerunners of Impressionists.


Like the landscape, in the 19th century the portrait became a reflection of inimitable individuality, the reflection of the spiritual image of the individual. In the circle of Munich painting, portrait painting was very particularly developed by Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904). In his pictures, done in a combination of studio and natural light, the figures emerge in three dimensions from the dark backgrounds and the focus is fixed on the characteristic depiction of the figure in the manner of academic realism, as practised at the Academy by Wilhelm von Diez and the early Hugo von Habermann. The typical portraits are in half-profile, and in the penumbra, in shades of brown and grey lit up by ochre and white.

Genre painting and still lifes

Nineteenth century genre painting is a reflection of the awakened interest in the everyday life of the rural and petty bourgeois populations. At the Munich Academy it was practised from the middle of the 19th century, earlier having been considered of lesser value. A great champion of genre painting, who brought together the art and social questions of his time, was Wilhelm Leibl, with his many depictions of peasant life in Bavaria, opening up the way to the representation of social topics from the life of poor and ordinary people. Although he was not a teacher at the Academy, Leibl left a trace on Munich painting by exhibiting at numerous shows and creating a large circle of followers. At this exhibition he is represented with the painting In the Village Home, created about 1890, a typical example of genre painting, which took its motifs from the quotidian of the common people, in the interiors of taverns and peasants’ houses. But the most important painters of genre scenes actually at the Academy were Franz von Defregger and Wilhelm von Diez, whose painting Robbery at the Time of the Thirty Years’ War, 1889, links the theme of history painting, incorporated into genre and landscape. Folk art themes were cultivated at the international Munich school particularly among painters from the Slavonic countries, as shown by Mašić’s Sava valley idylls painted from memory and on the basis of numerous studies in his Munich studio. 

Text: Irena Kraševac


On the occasion of the exhibition, there was also organized a prize game Generalturist “Castle of Bavaria” in which all visitors to the exhibition can participate in the Art Pavilion in Zagreb. The happiest visitor will win a trip to Bavaria for two people. The winner of the prize draw will be held on December 15, 2009.