Wilhelm Trübner

Wilhelm Trübner
(Heidelberg 1851 - 1917 Karlsruhe)

 Self Portrait as a Dragoon, Karlsruhe 1875

Oil on canvas, 54,3 × 45 cm
Signed, dated and inscribed lower right W. Trübner. 1875. / Carlsruhe.
Annotated ‘W. Trübner München’ on the stretcher

With the artist;
Wilhelm Trübner estate sale (paintings), 1918, lot 22, plate XIII1 (purchased on behalf of the son, Jörg Trübner, by his guardian, Victor Schwörer);
Jörg Trübner;
On loan to the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe;
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Trubner2, Bellevue, WA, USA;
London, Christie’s, German & Austrian Art, 9 October 1996, lot 13;
Austrian private collection.

Wilhelm Trübner, Karlsruhe 1911, no. 31, repr.;
Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917), Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung;
Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg, 1994-5, pp. 134-5, no. 28, repr..

Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, 12 (1901), p. 279, repr. p. 276;
Hans Rosenhagen, Die Kunst für alle, 17 (1902), p. 363;
Hans Rosenhagen, Velhagen und Klasings Monatshefte, 18/I (1903), p. 409;
Hans Rosenhagen, Die Kunst unserer Zeit, 17 (1906), repr. p. 149 and p. 157;
Georg Fuchs, Wilhelm Trübner und sein Werk, Munich and Leipzig 1908, p. 101, no. 50, repr.;
Hans Rosenhagen, Wilhelm Trübner, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1909, p. 28, fig. 25 and p. 39;
Josef August Beringer, Trübner: des Meisters Gemälde in 450 Abbildungen, Stuttgart and Berlin 1917, p. 67, repr.;
Kunst und Künstler 18 (1919-20), repr. p. 498;
Josef August Beringer, Trübner: Eine Auswahl aus dem Lebenswerk des Meisters in 101 Abbildungen, Stuttgart and Berlin 1921, p. 27, repr.;
Mechthild Frick, Wilhelm Trübner - Untersuchung zur Krise des deutschen Realismus in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Diss., Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 1963, p. 17;
Klaus Rohrandt, Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917): kritischer und beschreibender Katalog sämtlicher Gemälde, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik; Biographie und Studien zum Werk, Kiel 1971, II/1, pp. 142-3, no. G 212;
F. von Boetticher, Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Hofheim am Taunus 1974, II/2, p. 902, no. 21.


We are grateful to Dr. Roland Dorn, Wiesbaden, for his research into the painting.

In October 1874, the young painter Wilhelm Trübner volunteered in Karlsruhe for a one-year period of military service. Sharing the enthusiasm of many of his contemporaries for the Franco-Prussian War, he had hoped to be called up immediately when war broke out in 1870. This self-portrait, painted at the age of twenty-four, reflects Trübner’s deep interest in the military.3

Trübner produced a large body of self-portraits, but this is the only one of him in uniform that shows him holding not just a palette but also brushes.4 He is wearing the uniform of the ‛Schwarzen Dragoner’, the Third Baden Dragoon Regiment ‛Prinz Karl’ No. 22, which he had joined as a ‘volunteer for one year’. He stands somewhat stiffly, cutting an awkward figure in his over-large blue tunic and worn, knee-length boots – the tunic trimmed with conspicuous red piping and shiny gold buttons, while the boots create a strong chromatic contrast with the brown tones of the background. Wall and floor merge into one. Only the round table with its heavy floral covering creates a sense of depth. Trübner stands at the center of the image, gazing directly at the viewer with a self-confident stare. The red of the piping is reflected in the polished underside of his palette. In a gesture not devoid of humor, he displays his brushes, on which there are still fresh traces of the red and blue paint he has used to complete the tunic. His right eye seems magnified in size and its gaze is piercing. Encountered in other Trübner self-portraits and also in the self-portraits of other artists of his generation, such as Liebermann, this feature should not be read just as a reference to the painter’s most important sensory organ, as some art historians claim. It may also be the result of the exacting process of self-observation in a mirror – a prerequisite of self-portraits – where the left eye remains shut and the right eye wide open in concentration.

Anselm Feuerbach was chiefly responsible for Trübner’s decision not to take over his father’s goldsmith workshop. Instead, Trübner enrolled at the Karlsruhe Academy in 1867 to study painting. He moved to Munich a year later, where he came into contact with Wilhelm Leibl and his circle in about 1870. Around that time he abandoned his studies at the Academy. He worked for a short time with Carl Schuch, Albert Lang and Wilhelm Hinrich, going on to share a studio with Hans Thoma. In 1875, on completion of his military service in Karlsruhe, he intensified his contact with the artists in Leibl’s circle and moved back to Munich. Later, he traveled with Schuch to Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. As a result of his association with Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt and Max Liebermann he joined the Munich Secession in 1894, only to withdraw from it the following year to join the Freie Vereinigung München. He moved to Frankfurt in 1896 to teach at the Städelschule. He was a professor at the Karlsruhe Academy from 1903 to 1917, being its Director from 1904 to 1910.5

1 See Kunst und Künstler, 16 (1917-8), p. 407 f.

2 Henry Trübner (1920-99) was Wilhelm Trübner’s grandson. After moving to the United States in 1938 (see http://smcalister1.tripod.com/id14.html) he changed his name from Heinz to Henry. Like his father, Jörg Trübner, Henry was an art historian. In 1947 he was named Curator of Oriental Art at what was then the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art (see http://smcalister1.tripod.com/id14.html). In 1958 he took up the position of Curator of the Far Eastern Department of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. From 1968-87 he was Curator of Asian Art at the Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, WA. See Thomas Lawton ‛Henry Trubner’, in Artibus Asiae, 59/1-2 (1999), pp. 135-7.

3 The painting G 213 (listed below) is a larger-format version of the present painting. A number of other self-portraits with military associations are extant. In the years 1874-5 Trübner also depicted himself as a dragoon in the following works (see Rohrandt 1971, op. cit.):

G 211: Self-Portrait as a ‘Volunteer for One Year’, 1874-5, oil on canvas, 102.5 x 83 cm, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, inv. 1140.

G 213: Self-Portrait as a Dragoon in One-Year Service, with Palette in Hand II, 1875, oil on canvas, 102 x 83.5 cm, Bezirksamt Schöneberg, Berlin.

G 214: Self-Portrait as a Dragoon in One-Year Service (with Cap), 1875, oil on canvas, 53 x 43.5 cm, whereabouts unknown.

G 215: Self-Portrait as a Dragoon in One-Year Service, with Helmet and Pouch, 1875, oil on canvas, 59 x 44 cm, Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum, inv. G 2564.

4 See Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917), exhib. cat., Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung; Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg, Munich 1994-5, p. 23.

5 See Rohrandt 1971, op. cit., pp. 21-41.

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