Gerson Digital : Germany II


1.1 The Continuation of Dutch Art in Hamburg

Artistically, Hamburg was not determined by courtly prejudices and pretentions. It is very characteristic that even here, only that facet of Dutch art, which we have already described at the court in Düsseldorf: Dutch fine painting, lived on for a while. We take the art of Balthasar Denner (1685-1749) [1] as an example. In 1696 he was the apprentice of an unknown Dutchman called Frans Amama. He visited Holland in 1736-1739, where he met with Adriaen van der Werff, who admired his art very much.1 Denner provided all of Northern Germany, e.g. every important court there, with his works: those of Schleswig-Holstein, Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, Brandenburg and even that of Copenhagen.2 In 1721 he was, by the way, also in England.

His portraits are notably for an exceptionally detailed way of painting, which brought him the nickname ‘der Porendenner’ (Denner of the Pores) [2-3]. In him the line of Gerard Dou, Godfried Schalcken and Adriaen van der Werff found its continuation. The exaggerated naturalism, the fine painting par excellence, is one aspect which the early 18th century valued in Dutch art -- in complete contrast with the loose technique of the Rococo (Watteau) or the brilliant decorative painting (Boucher, Tiepolo).

Balthasar Denner
Self-portrait of Balthasar Denner (1685-1749), dated 1719
canvas, oil paint 52 x 40,5 cm
lower right : Denner fec./ 1719/Aet: 33½
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark

Balthasar Denner
'Tronie' of an old man, dated 1726
canvas, oil paint 37 x 31,5 cm
lower left : Denner. fec:/t / 1726
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv./ GG 676

Balthasar Denner
'Tronie' of an old woman, before 1721
canvas, oil paint 37 x 31,5 cm
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv./ GG 675

However, Denner started out differently. A still-life of 1698 (now in Hamburg) [4] shows this very clearly in contrast with a late still-life with fruit of 1733 (also in Hamburg) [5]. Though the first is still clumsy and timid in composition, it has a natural boldness and colourfulness, while the second is smooth like his portraits, as if in the style of Abraham Mignon and Jan van Huijsum. In his portraits Denner occasionally tried to hold on to Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro, but it is rather that of Gerard Dou than that of Rembrandt; only in some of his late works (Dresden, Portrait of a Woman, no. 2067) [6] the painting becomes somewhat broader, brown in brown and the brushstrokes more energetic. Or he tried to achieve this with a strong lighting, that, as in his self-portrait of the collection Tronchin in Geneva, leaves the upper part of the face, which is in the shadow of the hat, in the dark [7].3

Balthasar Denner
Still-life with apples, walnuts and a glass of wine on a table, dated 1698
paper, watercolor, gouache (material/technique) 161 x 197 mm
lower center : Aº 1698 BD
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./ 402

Balthasar Denner
Still-life with fruit, dated 1733
copper, oil paint 37,3 x 31,3 cm
lower left : Denner.1733
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./ 405

Balthasar Denner
Portrait of an elderly lady with a white hood, 1740-1749
canvas, oil paint 74,5 x 62 cm
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 2067

Christian Seybold
Self portrait of Christian Seybold (1695-1768)
canvas, oil paint 75,6 x 62,1 cm
Whereabouts unknown

Dominicus van der Smissen
Self-portrait of Domenicus van der Smissen (1704-1760), late 1730s
canvas, oil paint 78 x 62 cm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ GG 617

His pupil Dominicus van der Smissen (1704-1760) [8] and his son Jacob Denner (1720-1765)[9] stayed true to his style.4 With Jacob however there is an unmistakable connection with English portraiture (Joseph Highmore, William Hogarth). Van der Smissen already anticipated the freer style of Anton Graff (1736-1813).5

Jacob Denner
Portrait of the Denner family, about 1738-1739
canvas, oil paint 64 x 76,7 cm
lower right : Denner Jr. f [?]
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./ 411

As a landscapist who worked in the Dutch style, we can mention Jacob Stockmann (c. 1680-1743), who had been a pupil of Albert Meyering in Holland [10-11] and who had taken Michiel Carré as his example, although he also painted head studies in the taste of Denner. One of the many representatives of the Claude Lorraine/Jan Both style in 18th-century Germany is Friedrich Rosenberg (1758-1833) [12].6

Jacob Stockmann
Mountain Landscape, dated 1716
unknown, oil paint 97 x 125 cm
location unknown :
Berlin, art dealer Dr. Bermann

Friedrich Rosenberg
View of the Lauerzersee with the Mythens, dated 1792
canvas, oil paint 68 x 87,5 cm
lower right : F. Rosenberg 1792
Dobiaschofsky Auktionen (Bern (Switzerland)) 2014-05-14 - 2014-05-17, nr. 348

Jacob Stockmann
Heroic landscape, about 1710-1720
paper, brush in brown, washed 290 x 383 mm
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./ 23797

Johann Heinrich Menken (1766-1839) from Bremen, who was a pupil of Johann Christian Klengel in Dresden in 1792-1795, already belongs to the time of the revival of Dutch naturalism. He painted landscapes and cattle in the Dutch way [13], but which are also reminiscent though of contemporary English painting (George Morland! Compare Menken’s Gray in Bremen) [14].7 Gottlieb Christian Johann Giese (1787-1838) [15-16] from Greifswald already felt the proximity of the great Caspar David Friedrich, but still echoes Herman Saftleven and Jan Griffier in his landscapes (Winter landscape, art dealer, Cologne) [17].8

Johann Heinrich Menken
Coastal landscape with grazing cows and horses
canvas, oil paint 101 x 136 cm
lower right : J. Menken
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2011-06-16, nr. 240

Gottlieb Christian Johann Giese
Summer landscape with cattle, dated 1814
canvas, oil paint 77 x 103 cm
lower right : G. Giese 1814
Greifswald, Pommersches Landesmuseum

Johann Heinrich Menken
canvas, oil paint 82 x 94 cm
Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen

Gottlieb Christian Johann Giese
Wintery landscape with wood-gatherers, c. 1814
canvas, oil paint 76,6 x 103 cm
lower left : G. Giese pinx.
Greifswald, Pommersches Landesmuseum, inv./ B 1118/17 431

Gottlieb Christian Johann Giese
Mountain landscape with eagle, dated 1818
canvas, oil paint 102 x 88 cm
: Giese pinx. 1818
Whereabouts unknown


1 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Denner and his family lived in Amsterdam for three and a half years in 1736-1739, but he visited the Netherlands three times previously. His visit to Adriaen van der Werff in Rotterdam took place in 1721 (Niemeyer 1970, p. 201-204; De Bruyn Kops 1988, p. 167). Since 2008 Ute Mannhardt has been working on an oeuvre catalogue of Balthasar Denner.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Perhaps it was unknown to Gerson that Denner also delivered to the court of Mecklenburg; there are over 70 paintings by Denner in the Staatliches Musem Schwerin that came from this collection (communication Gero Seelig).

3 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Loche 1974, p. 23, no. 44, ill. as Denner; judging from the vague black and white reproduction we rather consider it as a work by Christian Seybold.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Van der Smissen also worked in the Netherlands; there are dated portraits of Dutch sitters of 1751, 1753 and 1756 (Niemeyer 1970, p. 220-224).

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] See for illustrations Biermann 1914, nos. 166-173, 356, 361, 496.

6 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Rosenberg worked in the Netherlands: several drawings by him in the Hamburger Kunsthalle of the surroundings of The Hague (RKDimages 289482, 289485, 289488); there is a series of three oval decoration pieces of which one is signed and dated 1793 in the Rijswijk Museum that were entered in the RKD database as part of a project of decorative paintings of 2005-2008 (RKDimages 102099, 102100, 102101, 102102).

7 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Menken: Vogt 1975.

8 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Giese: Buske 2005.

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