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Self-portrait in Three-quarter Profile to the Right. Pencil on thin cardboard. 13 x 10.6 cm. Monogrammed and dated: “JH 1828 Düsseldorff im August”, below in a different hand “Julius Hübner Maler”.
Julius Hübner, a painter of portraits and historical scenes, began his artistic career in 1821 at the Berlin Academy and from 1823 studied under Wilhelm Schadow, whom he followed to Düsseldorf in 1826 together with his fellow students, Theodor Hildebrandt, Karl Friedrich Lessing and Karl Sohn. A number of years later he returned to Berlin, whence – having married the sister of his friend Bendeman – he departed for Italy in 1829. He met up with Schadow, Hildebrandt, Sohn and Bendemann in Rome in 1830. After lengthy stays in Berlin and Düsseldorf, Hübner took up an appointment at the Dresden Academy in 1839 and from 1842 gave classes in historical painting. Along with Bendemann, Lessing and Hildebrandt, Hübner is regarded as one of the foremost representatives of the Düsseldorf School founded by Schadow. He excelled above all as a historical painter and author of religious subjects strongly influenced by the Nazarenes, who lost their freshness in the late period due, in particular, to their academic rigidity and emphasis on literary content.
As a portrait painter, however, Hübner was quite clearly of a different artistic disposition, the characteristic features of which were an undogmatic realism and a subtle colourism. This wonderfully sensitive self-portrait shows the artist at the age of 22 wearing a plain waistcoat with a stand-up collar and elegant cravat. A year previously, Hübner had portrayed himself in almost the same pose and attire in a double portrait with his friend and fellow painter, Eduard Bendemann (Boetticher 31, now in private ownership in Germany). His delicately chiselled face with the fine, wavy hair and stylish, fashionable moustache is inclined slightly to the right, while his large, melancholy eyes look at the viewer with a tentative, questioning gaze. The sophisticated draughtsmanship evident in the drawing accords fully with the Nazarene tradition. By using a hard, sharply pointed pencil the artist achieves a maximum of realistic detail and produces very fine transitions. The subtle wipes generate a soft chiaroscuro; the highlights on the chin, the tip of the nose and the pupils are captured with great mastery. This is an exquisite gem of German draughtsmanship from the Romantic period. From the collection of Carl Heumann, Chemnitz (Lugt 2841a).