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A Forest Glade on Herreninsel Island under an Overcast Sky. Oil on canvas. 44 x 55 cm. Signed and dated: “W. Trübner 1874”.
In the 1870s, Wilhelm Trübner – together with Wilhelm Leibl, Carl Schuch and Johannes Sperl – was considered one of the foremost representatives of an uncompromising and unorthodox style of plein-air painting that was openly at odds with the academic approach to art at the time. After studying at the Karlsruhe Academy, where he was greatly influenced by his teacher Hans Canon, a painter from Vienna, Trübner went to Munich in 1869 and enrolled in the Academy there. His artistic development was advanced considerably by his exposure to the paintings of Wilhelm Leibl and Gustave Courbet, whose works he saw at the art exhibition in the Glass Palace in Munich the same year. Trübner subsequently became an advocate of emphatic Naturalism, his convictions being strengthened by his contacts with like-minded artists such as Albert Lang and Carl Schuch. Having finally met Wilhelm Leibl in Bernried in the summer of 1871, Trübner decided to join his circle. While their relationship was rooted in mutual recognition, the two artists nonetheless maintained a respectful distance from each other.
Following a lengthy journey with his friend Schuch through Italy in 1872 and a trip to Holland in the spring of 1873, Trübner stayed for the first time in the summer of that year on Herreninsel Island in Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria, where he worked resolutely after nature. The present oil sketch is stylistically akin to the painting Monastery Building on Herreninsel Island (Nationalgalerie, Berlin), which he completed in 1874. Both works testify to Trübner’s simple, unaffected plein-airism and his repudiation of any concession to genre-like details. His pure, down-to-earth style of painting must have proved highly provocative in his time. Trübner renders the autumn foliage in a varied, airy and almost sculptural manner with broad, vigorous strokes of the brush. Barely discernible in the middle ground are two deer standing at the bank of a small pond. The grey sky weighs heavily on the quiet, deserted setting and steeps the landscape in a cool light. The subtle gradations of green and brown, which lend an element of grandeur to this otherwise unremarkable stretch of forest, testify to Wilhelm Trübner’s love of nature and his capacity, while still a young painter, to portray landscape with great sensitivity.
In retrospect Lovis Corinth had the following to say about Trübner’s work at that time: “He dispensed with everything that might have found favour with the public and his fellow artists. His pictures are distinguished by the beauty of their hues and their sheer painterly effect; his works conveyed an immense seriousness which temporarily obliged the beholder to adopt a negative attitude.”