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Hermes, Messenger of the Gods. Pencil drawing. 37 x 25.5 cm. Signed in pen: “WKaulbach”. Circa 1845.
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Wilhelm von Kaulbach was a gifted and extremely productive draughtsman. How early his talent manifested itself may be seen from the fact that, upon admission to the Düsseldorf Academy in 1822, he completed the whole course of study from the elementary class to the senior grade within one year. Peter von Cornelius threw his support behind the young artist, putting a number of stipends his way. In 1826 Kaulbach went at Cornelius’ insistence to Munich, where he helped the latter in the execution of frescoes for the Herzog Max-Palais, the Residenz and other projects. The cartoon for the Battle of the Huns (1834– 37) marked Kaulbach’s artistic breakthrough. King Ludwig I of Bavaria appointed him court painter and in the space of a few years Kaulbach rose to become the most respected and bestpaid painter of historical scenes in Germany. The present study sheet probably arose in connection with the monumental paintings in the stairwell of the Neues Museum in Berlin, which were among the most important commissions of Kaulbach’s career and with which he was occupied from 1845 to 1865. The drawing is executed in a masterly, concentrated style derived from the graphic purism of the Nazarenes, which would be inconceivable without the influential example of Peter von Cornelius. Clear linework combined with an unerring sense of form lend the drawing a powerful simplicity and a vivid sense of movement.
Provenance: Katalog der 23. Ausstellung der Berliner Secession. Zeichnende Künste. Nov.–Dec. 1911, no. 502. From the collection Gustav Engelbrecht (Lugt 1148).