FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)
FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)
FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)
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FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)
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The Collection of Jerry Moss
FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)

Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht

FRANZ VON STUCK (1863-1928)
Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht
signed and dated 'FRANZ VON STUCK 1911' (lower right)
oil on panel in the artist's original frame
42 3⁄8 x 36 7⁄8 in. (107.5 x 93.7 cm.)
Painted in 1911
Galerie Heinemann, Munich (by January 1917).
Karl Kotzenberg, Frankfurt am Main (acquired from the above, December 1917).
Ludwig F. M. Schulze, Locust Valley, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 22 February 1989, lot 216.
Private collection, Japan.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 9 October 1996, lot 26.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
F. von Ostini, 'Neue Arbeiten von Franz von Stuck' in Die Kunst für Alle, vol. XXXI, 1916, pp. 7-9 (illustrated; titled Belauschte Nymphe).
H. Voss, Franz von Stuck: Werkkatalog der Gemälde mit einer Einführung in seinen Symbolismus, Munich, 1973, pp. 184 and 298, no. 379/43 (illustrated).
R. Stacey, 'The Talented Intruder:' Wyndham Lewis in Canada, 1939-1945, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario, 1992, p. 130.

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Though he was a professor at Munich’s Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Franz von Stuck’s art marked a departure from both the Academic and Realist styles that had dominated European art during the second half of the nineteenth century. Stuck rejected naturalism and adopted a bold, highly saturated palette, exploring overarching themes of love, lust, violence and chaos often through a mythological or allegorical lens. The darkness, drama and overt eroticism found in Stuck’s work are a reflection of the intellectual preoccupations of the European avant-garde during his lifetime, and his work is an important precursor to the compositions of artists like Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt, and to the later Surrealist and non-objective artists as well.
A founder-member of the Munich Secession, the city’s premier avant-garde artists’ association, in 1892, Stuck’s career bridged the progressive and official sides of Munich’s art world. Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht was painted when the artist was at the height of his international renown and dates to 1911, only six years after he was knighted, enabling him to add the honorific ‘von’ to his name. Stuck’s success during the 1890s and first decade of the new century was such that he was able to construct a palatial villa in Munich, which is now a museum dedicated to his work. A designer, sculptor, and illustrator in addition to a painter, he created architectural plans and designed decorative elements for the villa, which was intended as a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which all the elements form a perfect whole. The richly ornamented interior integrates Stuck’s paintings and sculptures into a setting inspired by the art of antiquity which was so often his subject matter.
Stuck’s art is clearly a product of the German intellectual milieu in which he lived. Like the artist himself, many of his contemporaries, including Richard Wagner, Sigmund Freud, and particularly Friedrich Nietzsche were interested in exploring spiritual and psychological extremes, as well as rejecting society’s moral, religious and spiritual constructs. Much of this was expressed through an interest in dichotomies, and ideas expressed in terms of perpetually opposing forces—Male/Female, Conscious/Unconscious, Sacred/Profane—are a defining characteristic of European intellectual thought at the turn of the century. “When choosing my subject matter, I seek to render only the purely human, the eternally valid—such as the relationship between man and woman. Most of my paintings feature a ‘he’ and a ‘she,’” said the artist in an interview in 1912.
In Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht, Stuck explores not only this Male/Female dynamic, but also ideas around action versus passivity and virtue versus vice as well. Here a nereid (though just depicted as a nude female figure with only the title to indicate her mythological status) stands bathing in a dark, almost abstract, rocky grotto which dominates the majority of the pictorial space. At the extreme upper edge of the composition, she has been spotted by two fauns who call over others to join them in leering at her. Though in the present work the story is presented in the guise of mythology, Stuck’s picture can also be understood as a retelling of the Biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, depicted by artists since the Renaissance at the moment when two rapacious old men emerge over the banister above the pool where the virtuous Susanna bathes. For previous generations of artists, this story had long provided unimpeachably appropriate cover for depicting a fully nude and sensuous female form. Through the lens of mythology and severed from a specific narrative, Stuck’s approach is more modern, centering desire rather than virtue. Though the artist was himself happily married, this kind of exploration of the relationship between men and women represented an important philosophical consideration for him.
Beyond just lust, in Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht Stuck also examines the intricacies of the power dynamic underlying human sexuality. The active and passive roles of the figures within his composition fluctuate, giving the picture, and the viewer’s relationship to it, its narrative tension. The fawns are actively observing the nude figure passively bathing, and yet is it her appearance which, unknown to her, actively stimulates their lust. At the same time, having encountered this scene, the viewer also becomes voyeur, pulled into the same role and only realizing their own action upon noticing the fawns. Heinrich Voss, who authored the artist’s catalogue raisonné, also emphasized this mutable dynamic: “the man’s desire is awakened as he observes the woman in this intimate moment. In the passive-active role which the woman plays in this scenario there is further appeal for the viewer; not only does her nakedness appeal, but also the very presentation of that nakedness is illustrated for voyeuristic lust...” (H. Voss, op. cit., p. 22). Stuck’s work, as in his most famous image Die Sünde, often casts man as powerless when faced with a woman actively seeking to seduce him, but in Quellnymphe von Faunen belauscht it is clear that he was interested in unconscious aspects of attraction as well.
Though by the beginning of the First World War Stuck’s signature style would come to be regarded as excessive and vulgar, his interest in extreme emotional states and his expressive manipulation of color, space, and form were eminently modern and would ultimately come to be seen as an important step toward the development of twentieth century art. He was a teacher to Josef Albers, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky, and there are clear parallels to be drawn between Stuck’s work and that of his contemporary Gustav Klimt, the Expressionism of Edvard Munch and Max Beckmann, and even further to the pathos-filled and dream-like subject matter of the Surrealists, like René Magritte. For much of the last century art historians disregarded Stuck’s work, and Symbolism generally, as an aberration in the narrative which connects nineteenth and twentieth century painting, but recent studies have finally begun to acknowledge the innovation and importance of Munich’s “painter prince” in the development of modern art, work which continues to the present day.

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