Franz Xaver Winterhalter Germany
4-20-1805 Menzenschwand, GER - 7-8-1873 Frankfurt am Main, GERBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Franz Xaver Winterhalter left Baden to move to France where his Italian genre scene Il dolce Farniente attracted notice at the Salon of 1836. Decameron a year later was also praised; both paintings are academic compositions in the style of Raphael. In the Salon of 1838 he exhibited a portrait of the Prince of Wagram with his young daughter. His career as a portrait painter was soon secured when in the same year he painted Louise Marie of Orleans, Queen of the Belgians, and her son, Duc de Brabant.
In Paris, Franz Xaver Winterhalter quickly became fashionable. He was appointed court painter of Louis-Philippe, the king of the French, who commissioned him to paint individual portraits of his large family. Winterhalter would execute more than thirty commissions for him.
However, Winterhalter's reputation in artistic circles suffered. The critics, who had praised his debut in the salon of 1836, dismissed him as a painter that could not be taken seriously. This attitude persisted throughout Winterhalter's career, condemning his work to a category of his own in the hierarchy of painting. Winterhalter himself regarded his first royal commissions as a temporary intermission before returning to subject painting and the field of academic respectability, but he was a victim of his own success and for the rest of his life he would work almost exclusively as a portrait painter. This was a field in which he was not only very successful but also made him rich. Franz Xaver Winterhalter became an international celebrity enjoying Royal patronage.
Among his many regal sitters was also Queen Victoria. Winterhalter first visited England in 1842, and returned several times to paint Victoria, Prince Albert and their growing family, painting at least 120 works for them on display to the public at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences
In 1852, he went to Spain to paint Queen Isabella II with her daughter, Infanta Maria-Isabel. Russian aristocratic visitors to Paris also liked to have their portraits executed by the famous master. As the "Painter of Princes", Winterhalter was thereafter in constant demand by the courts of Britain, Spain, Belgium, Russia, Mexico, the German courts, and France.
To deal with the pressure of portrait commissions, many of them calling for multiple replicas, Winterhalter made extensive use of assistants. No portrait painter ever enjoyed such an extraordinary royal patronage as Winterhalter; only Rubens and Van Dyck worked as he did in an international network.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter's portraits were prized for their subtle intimacy; the nature of his appeal is not difficult to explain. He created the image his sitters wished or needed to project to their subjects. He was not only skilled at posing his sitters to create almost theatrical compositions, but also was a virtuoso in the art of conveying the texture of fabrics, furs and jewelry, to which he paid no less attention than to the face.
Art Movement: Romanticism
Influences: Karl Ludwig Schüler, Peter von Cornelius, Joseph Stieler
Traveled: Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Mexico, France, Poland, Russia, Spain, England