Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
(Vienna 1793 - 1865 Hinterbrühl, near Vienna)
Actress Therese Krones, 1824
Oil on panel, 46.8 x 37.4
Signed and dated lower left Waldmüller 1824
An ownership label on the verso reads Graf Wimpffen, Hoher Markt 8.
Siegfried Graf Wimpffen, Vienna;
Gallery Jan Dik, Munich (1962);
Georg Schäfer private collection, Schweinfurt;
German private collection.
Spitzen-und Porträt-Ausstellung, Vienna, K.K. Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, March-May 1906;
Österreichische Porträtausstellung 1815-1914, Vienna, Künstlerhaus, October-December 1927, no. 23;
‘Hagenbund’, Vienna 1930, no. 25 (28);
Der frühe Realismus in Deutschland 1800-1850. Gemälde und Zeichnungen aus der Sammlung Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt. Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, June-October 1967, p. 209, fig. 263;
Romantik und Realismus in Österreich. Gemälde und Zeichnungen aus der Sammlung Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt, Laxenburg, Schloss Laxenburg, May-October 1968, p. 145, fig. 232;
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Gemälde aus der Sammlung Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt, Schweinfurt and elsewhere, 1978-9, p. 58, plate II.
Ludwig Hevesi, ‘Wiener Brief’, in Kunstchronik. Wochenzeitschrift für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, XVII, no. 21, Leipzig 1905/06, p. 326;
Arthur Roessler and Gustav Pisko, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Sein Leben, sein Werk und seine Schriften, Vienna 1907, II, fig. 10;
Paul Wiegler, ‘Therese Krones’ in Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte, Berlin, 42/1927-8, II, pp. 472ff., repr. p. 564;
Bruno Grimschitz, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Salzburg 1957, p. 287, no. 131;
Maria Buchsbaum, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller 1793-1865, Salzburg 1976, p. 41, fig. 33;
Gisela Müller, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller: ein Beitrag zum Frauenbildnis im Biedermeier, St. Augustin 1985, pp. 156ff.;
Gerbert Frodl, Wiener Malerei der Biedermeierzeit, Rosenheim 1987, p. 262 f., repr. p. 59;
Ein Blumenstrauß für Waldmüller. Stillleben Ferdinand Georg Waldmüllers und seiner Zeit, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna 1993, p. 28f., repr. p. 29;
Rupert Feuchtmüller, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller 1793-1865, Leben – Schriften – Werke, Vienna and Munich 1996, p. 431, no. 139, repr.;
Agnes Husslein-Arco and Sabine Grabner (eds.), Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Paris, February-May 2009 and Vienna, June-October 2009, p. 71.
Waldmüller’s innovatory approach to portraiture is discernible early in his career. His portraits are strikingly realistic and, unlike early portrait photographs, they set out to achieve a high degree of characterization. Waldmüller often succeeded in this by focussing on what he identified as the key character traits of the sitter. The figures portrayed and the objects depicted beside them – whether in interiors or in landscape settings – are depicted with such extraordinary attention to detail that it sometimes seems to be an end in itself. However, this is an expression of his conviction that precise observation is fundamental to good painting. It is also the reason for the exceptional vitality of his portraits.1
Waldmüller was well connected in the Vienna theatre and opera worlds through his marriage to the opera singer Katharina Weidner. In the 1820s this brought him a large number of portrait commissions from members of theatre and opera ensembles. In 1824, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of a popular young actress and singer named Therese Krones (1801-30). It was the year of her theatrical breakthrough.2 The portrait depicts Krones at the age of twenty-three in an interior setting. She is surrounded by everyday objects. Most of these relate to her profession. In her hand is a letter and on the table beside her are a score and an open book. A goldfish bowl on the table is a characteristic example of the technical virtuosity Waldmüller was anxious to display in his early career.3 The apparently random array of objects on the table is an example of his skill in fixing the transient moment.
Krones’s dark gaze and trace of a smile express quiet confidence. Her pale silk dress and pink shawl contrast with the dark background. The contrast underlines the delicacy and elegance of her figure. Waldmüller’s treatment of the rich material is masterly. The unusual diagonal of the pose lends the sitter a certain fragility which is absent in later portraits.4
Waldmüller’s portrait of another actress – Elise Höfer (Fig. 1) – executed only three years later, lacks the subtlety of the present portrait. It is highly detailed and with numerous references to bourgeois life.5 In terms of composition, it is more static and closer to conventional portraiture. Both portraits are small in format – a characteristic of Viennese portraiture – and rank among Waldmüller’s early masterpieces.
The present portrait was executed at a time when it was increasingly a bourgeois convention to bequeath a likeness to posterity. It was Waldmüller’s achievement that he was able to develop a specially formulated portrait genre appealing to the aspirations of a new social class and to depict nature with the utmost fidelity.6 At this early stage in his career he was to advance to be one of the outstanding portraitists of his time.
1 Udo Felbinger, ‘Die Imagination des Betrachters ist berechneter Teil des Bildes. Waldmüller als Porträtmaler’, in Agnes Husslein-Arco and Sabine Grabner (eds.), Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller 1793-1865, Paris, February-May 2009 and Vienna, June-October 2009, p. 76f.
2 Felbinger in op. cit, Paris and Vienna 2009, p. 71f.
3 Waldmüller produced several paintings in which he combined figures and objects more characteristic of a still life. Props like the goldfish bowl in the present painting appear in other paintings (see Feuchtmüller no. 244). See also Ein Blumenstrauß für Waldmüller. Stillleben Ferdinand Georg Waldmüllers und seiner Zeit, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna 1993.
4 Id. in op. cit, Paris and Vienna 2009, loc. cit.
5 Rupert Feuchtmüller, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller 1793-1865, Leben – Schriften – Werke, Vienna and Munich 1996, p. 47.
6 Waldmüller noted in 1847 – looking back on the commission to paint the Vienna Burgtheater actress Maria Henrietta Stierle (1755-1830), the mother of Hauptmann Stierle-Holzmeister – [...] But – this is how he [Hauptmann Stierle-Holzmeister] addressed me: ‘Paint her [my mother] for me exactly as she is.’ I then tried to carry out the commission exactly as he had requested, depicting nature with the utmost fidelity – and I succeeded! Suddenly the blindfold fell away. The only true path, the eternal, inexhaustible spring of art: contemplation, perception and comprehension of nature had revealed itself to me, what had rung out in my soul for so long had awoken in my consciousness [...]. Cited after Arthur Roessler and Gustav Pisko, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Sein Leben, sein Werk und seine Schriften, Vienna 1907, I, preface to the 2nd edition of Waldmüller’s writings (first pub. 1847), p. 8. The portrait was executed in 1819-20 and ranks as an outstanding example of Biedermeier painting. However it can of course also be seen as marking a formative stage in the development of his later portraiture.