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Franz Skarbina (German, 1849-1910)
Franz Skarbina (German, 1849-1910)

An elegant couple taking a stroll in Berlin

Franz Skarbina (German, 1849-1910)
An elegant couple taking a stroll in Berlin
signed 'F. Skarbina' (lower left)
oil on canvas
18¼ x 12 in. (47 x 30.5 cm.)

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Lot Essay

At the end of the 19th century, Franz Skarbina established himself as one of the most popular German artists, his paintings representing well the social needs of a changing Berlin.

Son of a goldsmith, Franz Skarbina was born in the German capital in 1849. Once he had finished his studies at the Berlin Academy, he left his country for a two year journey through Europe. Paris became Skarbina's second home, and the painter started taking part in French artistic life, also exhibiting his work at the Salon in 1883. Among the most illustrious neighbours of Skarbina's residence in Boulevard de Clichy were artists of the Parisian avant-garde, like Edouard Manet, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Honor Daumier. Skarbina became also very soon a habitu of the Opera and the Théâtre Français, finding numerous enthusiastic sitters among actresses and performers. The figures portrayed in his paintings are the same ones we would expect to meet in a book by Émile Zola or Theodor Fontane: in Skarbina's art there is no space for heroic or tragic facts, but just for scenes of everyday life, like a collection of snapshots taken in cafés, on the boulevards or in the city parks.

Once back in Germany, Skarbina, together with Max Liebermann and Walter Leistikow, founded the Gruppe XI that resisted academic tradition. In 1898 he was also co-founder of the Berlin Secession and in 1904 he became a member of the Senate of the Royal Academy of Arts winning, one year later, the gold medal at the Grossen Berliner Kunstausstellung.

Synthesising the modern emphasis on colour with the lessons of Impressionism, Franz Skarbina broke down the barriers that hitherto separated Germany from the French influence of plein-air painting.

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