Gerson Digital : Germany II


2.2 Kassel and the Tischbein Family

In Kassel the Dutch pictorial tradition - from Philip van Dijk, mainly in portraiture - continued into the 18th century. We already mentioned the various members of the Quitter family. Johann Georg Freesen (1701-1775), a pupil of Jan van Nickelen in Kassel and of Philip van Dijk in The Hague, held, like the Quitters before him, the office of gallery director under both the landgraves Wilhelm VIII (1682-1760) and Friedrich II (1720-1785). Before he became a court painter in 1744, he was sent for his education to Holland, France and Italy. He copied mainly Netherlandish paintings by Dou, Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck etc. in the Kassel gallery, but only a copy after Van Dyck survived [1-2].1

Johann Georg Freesen after Peter Paul Rubens
The penitent Mary Magdalene
canvas, oil paint 123 x 94,5 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel), inv./ GK 1080

Peter Paul Rubens
Christ and the penitent sinners, c. 1616
panel (oak), oil paint 147,2 x 130,1 cm
on the back : MV
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 329

Johann Heinrich Tischbein I (1722-1789)2 was a pupil of Johann Georg Freese, but then went to Paris to Carle van Loo, where he remained till 1748 and only returned home to Kassel after a journey to Rome and a stay in Venice. As professor and director of the academy he had a great influence. A Dutch perception can only be detected ‘indirectly’ in his works: his portraits are not as ‘French’ as those of his contemporaries. Most of all, the careful precision of his painting is based on his studying Dutch paintings. Tischbein himself wrote that he owed more to Van Loo and the Dutch masters than to Giambattista Piazzetta.3 Carle van Loo was Dutch by descent, but as a painter he belongs to the French art history. Johann Heinrich Tischbein I was often in Hamburg. He could study Dutch paintings there as well as in the Kassel Gallery. Apart from portraits, he painted some Oriental tronies in the manner of Rembrandt (by way of Tiepolo?) [3], as very often the types on his genre scenes and history paintings seem to derive from Rembrandt’s etchings anyway [4-5].4 A Girl in a Window in imitation of Gerard Dou [6] exists next to a series of peasant paintings in the taste of David Teniers II (Kassel) [7-10], although these historicizing pieces do not belong to his best work.5

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
Head of a man with turban, dated 1772
paper, red chalk, grey wash 169 x 141 mm
lower left : JH Tischbein [.] 1772.
Whereabouts unknown

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
Mars in armor, dated 1779
canvas, oil paint 41 x 31 cm
lower right : JHTischbein pinx: / 1779
Christie's (Amsterdam) 2007-11-14, nr. 227

Rembrandt or studio of Rembrandt
Self portrait with helmet, 1634
panel (mahogany), oil paint 80,5 x 66 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel), inv./ GK 237

From 1762 Johann Heinrich Tischbein I was a teacher of drawing and painting at the Collegium Carolinum. From this institution emerged an independent Academy, of which he became the first director in 1775. It had its own building next to the Gallery. His nephew Johann Heinrich Tischbein II (1742-1808), who by the way also taught at the Academy of Drawing, was nominated as the director of the Gallery of Paintings after Freese’s death. The Gallery was open for students and many works that were shown at the yearly exhibitions, were simply copies after the paintings there.6

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I) or Johann Friedrich August Tischbein
A young woman in a window
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Kassel, Stadtschloss Kassel

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
farmers quarrel, c. 1754-1757
canvas, oil paint 41,5 x 36 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Schloss Wilhelmsthal, inv./ GK 706

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
Flower girl in the tavern, c. 1754-1757
canvas, oil paint 41,5 x 36 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, inv./ GK 705

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
Four men at a seaport, c. 1754-1757
canvas, oil paint 41,5 x 36 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, inv./ GK 704

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (I)
Farmers at the table, c. 1754-1757
canvas, oil paint 41,5 x 36 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, inv./ GK 703

The younger Tischbein schooled himself in the Dutch masters (a series of etchings of 1788 after Berchem) [11], as did Jacob Tischbein (1725-1791), a brother of Johann Heinrich Tischbein I. Philips Wouwerman and Nicolaes Berchem set the most popular examples.7 As so often, the Dutch masters were being used as teachers for the ‘good way of painting’. However, hardly any Dutch influence is left in the mature works by the same painters.

The most important painter from this so talented artistic family was Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829). After studying with his uncle Johann Heinrich I in Kassel and with his other uncle Jacob in Hamburg, he stayed in Holland in 1771-1773. We already cited a passage from his autobiography, which is full of references to the forming force of Dutch art.8

In the collection of paintings of Counselor of State Daniel Stenglin (1735-1801) in Hamburg he copied Wouwerman [12-13] and Berchem in 1766.9 The Rembrandt etchings, that he also copied, he had seen in the collection of Senator Duntzer. ‘I also etched some after my own invention in the manner of Rembrandt, so that some connoisseurs would get confused, after which indeed some sheets were later passed as originals by Rembrandt’ [in translation].10

Johann Heinrich Tischbein (II) after Nicolaes Berchem
Landscape with horsemen and cattle at a ford, dated 1785
paper, etching 233 x 325 mm
Kassel (Hessen), Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, inv./ GS 29969

Philips Wouwerman
View of a beach with fishermen selling fish in front of a beach hut at a crane
panel, oil paint 36,6 x 51 cm
lower right : PHiLS.w
Amersfoort/Rijswijk, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, inv./ NK 2504

Wilhelm Tischbein after Philips Wouwerman
View of a beach with fishermen selling fish in front of a beach hut at a crane, 1766
paper, gouache (material/technique), India ink, pen 370 x 530 mm
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2013-04-24, nr. 175

About the paintings by Aert van der Neer he said: ‘they had a great effect on my youthful, delicate mind and taught me the beauties of sun and moon in an even more intimate way…’ [in translation].11 In this way he also copied ‘the excellent head with the helmet’ by Rembrandt in Kassel and other paintings by the master,12 as well as night pieces by Godfried Schalcken and paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck. About his own works of this time he judges thus: ‘I studied portrait painting after Van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt and practiced myself also after Nature’ [in translation].13

Especially successful is his copy after Paulus Potter’s Learning to Walk, which was in Kassel at that time [14-15].14 On his Dutch trip he saw Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson by Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and The Night Watch and gave an excellent description of them, having a keen eye for Dutch art and Dutch life. If Tischbein’s paintings had been lost, and if one had to image his art on the basis of this information, one would think to have discovered a second Dietrich. Tischbein, however, had also been in Italy for twenty years, from 1779 till 1799, where, as he himself stated, he saw the Italian landscape through the eyes of Adam Elsheimer, Nicolaes Berchem, Jan Both and Cornelis Poelenburch.15 Here in Italy the famous portrait of Goethe in the Campagna originated, a classicistic work of art one would think free from Dutch influence [16]. But an in-depth study has shown us, that the pose of the reclining figure is derived from a shepherd boy by Berchem [17]!16 Tischbein settled later in Hamburg and ultimately in Eutin, and many works by his hand still are to be found in Hamburg and Oldenburg.

Wilhelm Tischbein after Paulus Potter
Peasant family with cattle, c. 1771-1777
paper, aquarel paint (watercolor) 364 x 297 mm
Dessau (Saksen-Anhalt), private collection Dr. Tischbein

Paulus Potter
Peasant family with cattle, dated 1646
panel, oil paint 37,1 x 29,5 cm
upper left : paulus potter fe. 1646.
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 565

Wilhelm Tischbein
Goethe in the Roman Campagna, dated 1787
canvas, oil paint 164 x 206 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 1157

Nicolaes Berchem
Sitting shepherd with a dog, 1648-1652
paper, etching, 1st state 100 x 113 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-BI-1005

His portraits, romantic landscapes and classicistic compositions are personal inventions and free from imitation of older art. We can only speak like Leber, about an occasional ‘shimmer of Rembrandt’s stormy character’, especially in the head studies, which are partly direct copies after Rembrandt [18-19].17 He sometimes used artificial lighting effects like the Rembrandt imitators from Frankfurt such as Johann Georg Trautmann. Also a painting of an interior (Hamburg 579) [20] has reminiscences of Dutch examples. Personal creations and copies after Dutch masters go side by side; even later in life he continued to make copies and imitations of Dutch works. He painted a still-life with birds in the manner of Melchior d’Hondecoeter and copied after Rembrandt [21-25],18 Philips Wouwerman, Matthias Scheits and others.19 Maybe the Dutch tradition would have found an even more vivid expression in his work, had it not been disturbed by an Italian sojourn. But that is an idle thought and moreover an unhistorical one, as the Italian journeys of this generation were not of an accidental nature but an expression of the new classical or classicistic attitude.

Wilhelm Tischbein
Head of a man with a brown beard, c. 1814
canvas, oil paint 41,2 x 34,4 cm
Oldenburg (Niedersachsen), Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, inv./ LMO 29.988

Wilhelm Tischbein
Tronie of a man wearing a turban, 1814
paper, inkt ? x ? mm
Oldenburg (Niedersachsen), Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, inv./ 15.236

Wilhelm Tischbein
Kitchen scene, 1814
panel, oil paint 31,4 x 29,1 cm
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./ 576

Wilhelm Tischbein after Pieter van Laer
Landscape with shepherds and animals near a shack, between 1810-1820
paper, aquarel paint (watercolor), brush in black 310 x 213 mm
lower right : 8634
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle

Pieter van Laer
Landscape with shepherds and animals near a shack
panel, oil paint 69 x 55,5 cm
lower left : P..
Private collection

follower of Rembrandt or attributed to Gerbrand van den Eeckhout or Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
The Angel in the House of Tobias, c. 1645
panel (oak), oil paint 16 x 19,9 cm
Oldenburg (Niedersachsen), Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, inv./ LMO 4711

Wilhelm Tischbein after follower of Rembrandt or after Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
The angel in the house of Tobias, 1804 or later
paper, gouache (material/technique) 162 x 222 mm
Oldenburg (Niedersachsen), Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, inv./ LMO15.165

Let us end this contemplation of the ‘School of Kassel’ with the less important Johann August Nahl II (1752-1825) from Bern, a pupil of Christoph van Bemmel and Johann Heinrich Tischbein I. He also was in Italy, England and Holland, before he finally settled in Kassel. Only a few etchings after Rembrandt bear witness to his Dutch schooling; for the rest he is a classicistic landscape and history painter. A cousin and pupil of Johann Heinrich Tischbein I, Ludwig Philipp Strack (1761-1836) also started as an imitator of the old masters.20 He copied especially Berchem [26-28].21 His paintings from 1793 however are already free, romantic creations, which can best be compared with Claude Lorrain [29-31].

Wilhelm Tischbein after follower of Rembrandt or after Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
The angel in the house of Tobias, 1808 or later
paper, etching 164 x 225 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./ 1851,0412.60

Nicolaes Berchem
Southern landscape with cattle at the entrance of a cave, dated 1663
panel, oil paint 108 x 136,5 cm
lower left : Cv Berchem 1663
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./ 1924

Ludwig Philipp Strack after Nicolaes Berchem
Southern landscape with cattle at the entrance of a cave, dated 1785
canvas, oil paint 108 x 133 cm
location unknown : Strack f. 1785
Dorotheum (Vienna) 1971-09-21 - 1971-09-24, nr. 115

Ludwig Philipp Strack manner of Nicolaes Berchem
Sheperd family near an antiqe ruine, c. 1787-1794
canvas, oil paint 115 x 111 cm
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Ludwig Philipp Strack
The gulf and town of Salerno, with peasants and cattle resting, dated 1793
canvas, oil paint 76,5 x 102 cm
location unknown : Lud. Strack / 1793
Christie's (London (England)) 1993-07-09, nr. 91

Ludwig Philipp Strack
Landscape with shepherdess and herd, dated 1793
canvas, oil paint 55 x 71 mm
lower left : L Strack 1793
Düsseldorf, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, inv./ 31

Ludwig Philipp Strack
The lake of Avernus at Baia, the fortress of Don Pedro da Toledo, the cape of Misenum and Ischia beyond, dated 1793
canvas, oil paint 76 x 102 cm
location unknown : L. Strack.f / 1793
Christie's (London (England)) 1993-07-09, nr. 91

The ‘Tischbein’ case has already taught us, not to draw too far-reaching conclusions because of these copying activities. The Dutch paintings, especially Rembrandt’s works, formed painterly examples for young artists in the same way as the Italian and the French masters [32-33].22

attributed to Nicolaes Maes
The apostle Thomas
unknown, oil paint ? x ? cm
Kassel (Hessen), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel), inv./ 246

Salomon Pinhas after Nicolaes Maes
The Apostle Thomas
ivory, oil paint 95 x 78 mm
lower right : S. Pinhas
Rudolph Lepke (Berlin) 1907-11-05 - 1907-11-07, nr. 137


1 [Van Leeuwen 2018] In older catalogues and inventories of the Kassel gallery two copies were listed: a ‘Carrot-scraping woman and a boy with a mousetrap’ after Gerard Dou and a ‘Penitent Magdalena’ erroneously as after Anthony van Dyck (Thieme/Becker 1907-1950, vol. 12 [1916], p. 410). The first picture was lost under the French rule, the latter is a partial copy after Rubens’ Christ and the penitent sinners, in Munich, that was in Kassel at the time.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On J.H. Tischbein I: Heinz/Herzog et al. 1989-1990, Flohr 1997.

3 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 30.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2018] The illustrated painting of Mars, clearly inspired by the Rembrandt painting in Kassel, also was in the Kassel gallery. It was missing after1945, but surfaced in an auction in Amsterdam (Christie’s) in 2007.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Leber 1924 , p. 87-90, in my opinion, puts too much emphasis on the Rembrandt schooling of this artist.

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Knackfuß 1908.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 31

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] See p. 218. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Gerson/Van Leeuwen et al. 2017, § 2.4.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Oesterreich 1761. The collection was auctioned on 5/7 October 1801 and on 30 September 1822 in Hamburg (Lugt 10319). Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 61.

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 74-75.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 65. [Van Leeuwen 2018] The illustrated Aert van der Neer was in Tischbein’s own art collection. In 1804 Tischbein sold his collection of 86 paintings, including many Dutch and Flemish paintings, to Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig von Holstein-Gottorp (1755-1829), whose collection formed the nucleus of the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte in Oldenburg. In 1808 Tischbein became keeper of Duke Peter’s collection. On W. Tischbein as a collector: Deuter 2001; Dohe/Falk et al. 2017, p. 9-15 and passim.

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 100. [Van Leeuwen 2018] See above, in connection with J.H. Tischbein I.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 74.

14 [Gerson 1942/1983] Hofstede de Groot 1907-1928, vol. 4 (1911), p. 662, no. 113. Illustrations in Oldenburg 1930, with many paintings and drawings after Dutch examples, such as nos. 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 42.

15 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 78-98, 130.

16 [Gerson 1942/1983] Rintelen 1916.

17 [Gerson 1942/1983] In Oldenburg, Gotha, Kassel, collection Rantzau, Potsdam. Leber 1924, p. 91-100, esp. 98-99. [Van Leeuwen 2018] The painting in Gotha is missing since World War II (Warrior with helmet and armour on a dark grey ground, 68 x 54 cm, Maybe the reference to a work in Kassel is a confusion with the above illustrated work by J.H. Tischbein I. Leber does not mention a painting in Potsdam. The Head of a man with a brown beard in Oldenburg seems rather to be related to Flemish painting than to Rembrandt.

18 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Or what Tischbein considered to be Rembrandt, such as this little painting that once was in Tischbein’s own collection, now attributed to Gerbrandt van de Eeckhout (Deuter 2001, p. 46-47, no. 16.1-2; Dohe/Falk et al. 2017, p. 316-317, no. 196, ill.)

19 [Gerson 1942/1983] Oldenburg 1930, nos. 374-376, 359, 517.

20 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Strack: Francksen-Liesenfeld 2008.

21 [Van Leeuwen 2018] In his early career Strack had a name as a copyist of Dutch masters, especially Berchem, Potter and Wouwerman. The illustrated copy, which is about the same size as the original now in the Hermitage, was auctioned in 1971 (wrongly) as a work by Wilhelm Strack, brother of Ludwig Philipp Strack. The copy of 1785 proves that the Berchem of the Hermitage was in Northern Germany before it came into the possession of Josephine de Beauharnais.

22 [Gerson 1942/1983] E.g. a miniature copy by Salomon Pinhas (1759-1837) after Rembrandt’s The Architect in Kassel (Auction Berlin, 5 November 1907). [Van Leeuwen 2018] The painting is now attributed to Nicolaes Maes (RKDimages 251100).

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