Gerson Digital : Germany I

RKD STUDIES

7.9 Art in Silesia: Michael Willmann

In neighboring Silesia, Michael Willmann (1630-1706) surpassed every other artist in importance. He was in Amsterdam around 1650, where he took ‘the manner of painting of Jacob Backer, Rembrandt and others as an example’. Sandrart tells furthermore, that Willmann didn’t have enough money to enter a Dutch studio as an apprentice. He therefore started to travel, always trying to see everything in the way of famous paintings. Around 1653-1655 he stayed for some time in Prague and from there he established a relation with the abbot of Leubus. As the negotiations didn’t lead immediately to the desired result, he spent some time in Berlin before he finally settled in Silesia. The Great Elector didn’t lose sight of him completely, as he assigned him some more commissions in 1682 [1].1

1
Michael Willmann
Allegorical portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg (1620-1688), dated 1682
canvas, oil paint 162 x 200 cm
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald

We do not know any pictures from Willmann’s Dutch period.2 The pictures made in Prague are the earliest ones known to us, which are important to us, as they are the only ones in which the connection to Dutch art speaks clearly. Christ Healing the Paralytic in Bethesda from the Lobkowicz collection [2] is a painting in the style of Gerbrand van den Eeckhout and Christ carried by Angels [3] is a composition with the emotionality of a Bramer.3 There are also drawings in Bramer’s manner [4-8].4 The shapes are softer and more polished, as Willmann after all is an artist prone to ‘dissolution of form by chiaroscuro’. Small wonder that Tintoretto’s visions also stir him to imitation, although the distance in artistic personalities between the Silesian and the Venetian is more obvious. The paintings in the style of the painterly Rembrandt School do not come further than the humble beginnings.

2
Michael Willmann
Christ healing the paralytic at Capernaum, c. 1652-1653
canvas, oil paint 55,5 x 81,5 cm
Roudnice/Prague/Nelahozeves, Lobkowicz Collections

3
Michael Willmann
Christ carried by angels, c. 1653-1655 or c. 1668
canvas, oil paint 198,5 x 166 cm
Prague, Národní Galerie v Praze, inv./cat.nr. DO 4360

4
Michael Willmann
Christ says goodbye to his mother, between c. 1670-1678
oiled brown paper, brush in grey, heightened in white 144 x 88 mm
lower center : Wie Christus von seiner Mutter urlaub nimbt / M.W.del.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./cat.nr. Graphische Sammlung no. 3716

5
Michael Willmann
The desrobbing of Christ, between c. 1670-1678
oiled orange-brown paper, brush in black and grey, black and grey wash, heightened in white 130 x 82 mm
lower center : Wie Christus von seiner Mutter urlaub nimbt / M.W.del.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./cat.nr. Graphische Sammlung no. 3733

6
Michael Willmann
Christ meets his mother, between c. 1670-1678
oiled orange-brown paper, brush in black and grey, heightened in white 129 x 85 mm
lower center : Wie Christus von seiner Mutter urlaub nimbt / M.W.del.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./cat.nr. Graphische Sammlung no. 3727

7
Michael Willmann
Christ comes down the holy stairs, between c. 1670-1678
oiled brown paper, brush in grey, heightened in white 131 x 85 mm
lower center : Wie Christus von seiner Mutter urlaub nimbt / M.W.del.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./cat.nr. Graphische Sammlung no. 3724

8
Michael Willmann
The foot washing of Saint Peter, between c. 1670-1678
oiled brown paper, brush in black, grey wash, heightened in white 129 x 83 mm
lower center : Wie Christus von seiner Mutter urlaub nimbt / M.W.del.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./cat.nr. Graphische Sammlung no. 3718

A wooded landscape of 1656, that holds on to the long past style of Coninxloo, stands out rather alone [9-10].5 Furthermore there is a landscape in the style of Hercules Seghers, Allard van Everdingen and Roelant Roghman [11].6

9
Michael Willmann
Forest landscape with John the Baptist, dated 1656
canvas, oil paint 88 x 118 cm
lower left : Ar.ABB.Lu / 1656
Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, inv./cat.nr. M.Ob.1041

10
Jan van Londerseel after Gillis Claesz. de Hondecoeter published by Claes Jansz. Visscher
Forest landscape with John the Baptist,
paper, copper engraving 360 x 476 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-75.250

11
Michael Willmann
The holy Family on the flight into Egypt, c. 1685
canvas, oil paint 163 x 198 cm
Wrocław, Muzeum Narodowe we Wroclawiu, inv./cat.nr. 2658

The abbot of Leubus wanted to test the skill of his new church painter and had him paint as a test a copy after Van Dyck’s Descent from the Cross in Ghendt, using an engraving as a model. Willmann painted the Descent so skilfully, that we have to assume, that he studied Van Dyck´s work in Flanders.7 But the documents do not mention any trip to Antwerp.

It didn’t end with this one Van Dyck copy. A Lamentation of Christ8 [12] followed, as well as Holy Family9 (both Kunstgewerbemuseum Breslau) and in the church in Weinberg in Leubus a whole series of Apostles after Van Dyck [13-16].10 That actually sealed his fate. The demands of his ecclesiastical patrons superseded the original Dutch-oriented manner of painting of the artist in favour of a more histrionic, effusive conception. However, Willmann tried to retain some of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and his stupendous light and to keep the brownish color scheme as much as possible, but the basic attitude towards the composition, and even the figure types themselves were turned towards the Flemish-Italian. He developed an extensive activity in Silesia and adorned many catholic churches and monasteries with altarpieces and ceiling paintings; around 1665 he himself converted to Roman Catholicism. In portraits, such as his Self-portrait in Breslau [17], he preserved the Dutch painting style much longer. In that respect he remained in a Rembrandt pupil, even at a time when Dutchmen such as Ferdinand Bol, Govaert Flinck and Nicolaes Maes already had taken different routes.

12
Michael Willmann and Johann Christoph Liska von Rottenwald (Ritter)
The lamentation of Christ, c. 1705
panel (lime), oil paint 88 x 73 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 13163

13
Michael Willmann after Anthony van Dyck
The apostle Matthew, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 102 x 74 cm
: AAL 1667
Leubus (Niederschlesien), Weinbergkirche

14
Michael Willmann after Anthony van Dyck
The apostle John the Evangelist, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 102 x 74 cm
: AAL 1667
Leubus (Niederschlesien), Weinbergkirche

15
Michael Willmann after Anthony van Dyck
The apostle Peter, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 102 x 74 cm
upper left : AAL 1667
Leubus (Niederschlesien), Weinbergkirche

16
Michael Willmann possibly after Anthony van Dyck
The apostle James the Less, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 102 x 74 cm
: AAL 1667
Leubus (Niederschlesien), Weinbergkirche

17
Michael Willmann
Self-portrait of Michael Willmann (1630-1706), dated 1682
canvas, oil paint 64,5 x 51,5 cm
center right : ML Willm / 1682
Wrocław, Muzeum Narodowe we Wroclawiu

18
Georg Scholtz (II)
Portrait of Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau (1618-1679), 1667
panel, oil paint 28,3 x 17,4 cm
all around :
Wrocław, Muzeum Narodowe we Wroclawiu

Furthermore the Dutch way in Breslau is represented by a portrait- and a still-life painter. Georg Scholtz II (1622-1677) painted some miniature portraits, from which we highlight the portrait of Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau [18], that is so near Gerard ter Borch I.11 He also trained himself by copying Rembrandtesque heads.12 The still-life painter Philipp Sauerland II (1677-1762) from Danzig painted animal pieces and still-lifes that hardly can be distinguished from the products of a half a century older generation (Christopher Paudiss, Henri de Fromentiou, Melchior d’Hondecoeter) [19-21].13 Nothing is known about a stay in Holland. As he worked for several years in Berlin though, he may have studied numerous still-lifes in the electoral collection there. Let us remind ourselves finally, that the Dutch landscapist Johann Gottlieb Glauber, who we encountered twice in a short space of time, ended here in Breslau his restless life in 1703.

19
Philipp Sauerland (II)
Still life with dead rooster, onions and savoy cabbage,
canvas, oil paint 72 x 57 cm
Breslau (hist.), Schlesisches Museum der Bildenden Künste

20
Philipp Sauerland (II)
Landscape with cockfight, dated 1723
canvas, oil paint 40 x 53 cm
lower right : Philipp Sauerland, Pinx. 1723
Ernst-Museum (Boedapest) 1923-02-15, nr. 546

21
Philipp Sauerland (II)
Landscape with different birds, dated 1723
canvas, oil paint 40 x 53 cm
lower left : Philipp Sauerland, Pinx. 1723
Ernst-Museum (Boedapest) 1923-02-15, nr. 545


Notes

1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Sandrart/Peltzer 1675/1925, p. 370; cf. for the following: Kloss 1934, with many illustrations.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Willmann and the Netherlands: Klessmann 1994.

3 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kloss 1934, fig.. 2 and 6. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 80-81, no. 1, ill. and p. 70, 82-83, no. 2, ill.

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kloss 1934, fig. 36ff. [Van Leeuwen 2018] This refers to a series of sketches for the Grüssau Book of the Passion published in 1678 (Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 188-193, no. Z 14, a-q). On the Grüssau painting series of Josephs: Grimkowski 2006.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kloss 1934, fig. 7. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 86-87, no. 4, ill

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kloss 1934, fig. 35. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 124-125, no. 23, ill.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kloss 1934, p. 167, no. 53.

8 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Gerson does not refer to the painting illustrated here (that clearly shows Van Dyck’s influence)) but to a copy of c. 1656 after Van Dyck’s Lamentation in Antwerp (RKDimages 48543), Schlesisches Museum für Kunstgewerbe und Altertümer Breslau [Wroclaw], inv.no. 4441, 129 x 99 cm. Kloss 1934, p. 167, no. 54. We could not retrieve an image.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2018] A copy of c. 1656 after Anthony van Dyck’s Holy Family in Munich (RKDimages 209656), Schlesisches Museum für Kunstgewerbe und Altertümer Breslau [Wroclaw], inv.no. 4456, 61,5 x 54 cm. Kloss 1934, p. 167, no. 57. We could not retrieve an image.

10 [Van Leeuwen2018] Kloss 1934, p. 173, nos. 217-229.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] Biermann 1914, vol. 1. no. 491.

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] A head in pastel after Salomon Koninck in Dresden. [Van Leeuwen 2018] We could not retrieve an image.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] Paintings in the Museum in Breslau; Berlin 1935-1936, no. 59; Auction Budapest (Enyedi), 15 February 1923, nos. 545-546.

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