I recently came across this delightful painting on Twitter. If ever there were a painting that said "summer day", this is it, and what better picture to feature on an August day? (As always, click on the image to enlarge it.)
The artist is Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885), and he's known today as a German romanticist painter of the Biedermeier era. What I find fascinating is that he was entirely self-taught. Trained as a pharmacist, he took up painting while recovering from an illness, learning through studying and copying Old Master paintings. In his late twenties, he received a sizable inheritance, and the pharmacist became a full-time artist. He liked to tell stories within his paintings, and often combined a caricaturist's gift for satire with a finely finished artistic realism.
This family heading out on their Sunday walk is a perfect example of Spitzweg's work. Having shed his coat from the heat, the rotund father with his bushy sideburns proudly leads his wife and children through the gently blowing tall grass. It's early in the morning, and the sky is pale and the clouds are downy. The ladies in their huge bonnets have tipped their parasols to shield themselves from the rising sun, and Papa himself has balanced his hat on his walking stick to offer makeshift shade. The son is lagging behind, playing with something (I'm not sure what - a lantern? a bug-catcher? a kite? Anyone else know?) bobbing on the end of a long stick. I particularly like the smallest girl, her bonnet all that's visible of her as she hangs on to her father's hand.
Spitzweg remains a beloved painter in Germany, and he had the dubious distinction of being one of Adolph Hitler's favorite artists. Spitzweg's popularity has also made him a favorite target of art thieves, who have marked his work as among the most frequently stolen in the history of art.
But today, all I'd like to concentrate on are those straw bonnets in the tall grass and the lavender-blue sky of a long-ago summer morning....
A Sunday Stroll, by Carl Spitzweg, 1841, Museum Carolino Augusteum, Salzburg.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.