Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928)
Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928)
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Property of Private German Collection
Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928)

Bacchanal

Details
Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928)
Bacchanal
signed and dated ‘FRANZ/STUCK/1905’ (on the pillar, center right)
oil on panel, in the artist's frame
The painting: 41 ¼ x 36 ¼ in. (104.8 x 92.2 cm.)
Overall: 49 ¼ x 44 ½ in. (125 x 113 cm.)
Provenance
Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, 1905.
Max Kriegl, Munich, acquired directly from the above, 1921.
Private collection, Düsseldorf.
Anonymous sale; Lempertz, Cologne, 7-8 December 1962, lot 694.
Acquired by the father of the present owner in the 1970s.
By descent to the present owner.
Literature
F. P. Bruckmann, Die Kunst für Alle, no. XX, Munich,1904-1905, p. 498.
F. P. Bruckmann, Die Kunst für Alle, no. XXI, Munich, 1905-1906, p. 458.
H. E. von Berlepsch, Die Kunst unserer Zeit, no. 17, Munich, 1906-1907, p. 216.
F. Ostini, Franz von Stuck, Gesamtwerk, Munich, 1909, pp. XVI, 115, illustrated, as Studie zum 'Bacchanal.'
F. P. Bruckmann, Die Kunst für Alle, no. XXVI, München 1910-1911, p. 13.
W. Zils, Geistiges und Künstlerisches München in Selbstbiographien, Munich, 1913, p. 359.
O. J. Bierbaum, Franz von Stuck, Künstler-Monographien, Leipzig, 1924, p. 107, pl. 120, illustrated.
K. Woermann, Geschichte der Kunst aller Zeiten und Völker, vol. 6, Leipzig, 1922, p. 327.
W. Kurth, Deutsche Maler im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1926, p. 63.
G. Dehio, Geschichte der Deutschen Kunst, Das Neunzehnte Jahrhundert, vol. IV, Berlin, 1934, p. 293.
U. Thieme & F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Leipzig, 1938, p. 233.
H. Hofstätter, Geschichte der Europäischen Jugendstilmalerei, Colone, 1963, pp. 2, 186, illustrated.
A. Sailer, Franz von Stuck, Ein Lebensmärchen, Munich, 1969, p. 54, illustrated.
H. Voss, Franz von Stuck, 1863-1928: Werkkatalog der Gemälde, Munich, 1973, pp. 160, 289, no. 278/225, illustrated.
Exhibited
Berlin, Ausstellungshaus am Kurfu¨rstendamm, Zweiten Ausstellung des Deutschen Ku¨nstlerbundes, 1905, p. 25, no. 170.
München, Secession München, Internationalen Kunst-Ausstellung, 1906, p. 30, no. 156, illustrated.
Venice, Venice Biennale, Ottava esposizione internazionale d'arte della citta' di Venezia, 1909, p. 58, no. 4.
Berlin, Große Berliner Kunstausstellung, 1913, p. 94, no. 1452.
Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Ausstellung Deutscher Malerei, 19 August-23 September 1917, p. 64, no. 129.
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Ausstellung Deutscher Malerei, 7 October-4 November 1917, no. 161.
Hamburg, Kunstverein Hamburg, Vom Impressionismus zum Bauhaus: Meisterwerke aus Deutschem Privatbesitz, 27 August – 16 October 1966, no. 79, illustrated.
Krems an der Donau, Kunsthalle Krems, Wasser & Wein, Zwei Dinge des Lebens Aus der Sicht der Kunst von der Antike bis heute, 20 May-29 November 1995, p. 267, no. X/23, pl. 46, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Though he was a professor at Munich’s Akademie der Bildenden Künste, the art of Franz von Stuck marked a departure from both the Academic and Realist styles that had dominated European art during the second half of the 19th century. ‘When choosing my subject matter, I seek to render only the purely human, the eternally valid,’ said the artist in an interview in 1912, and overarching themes of Stuck’s work include preoccupations with love, lust, violence and chaos, often explored 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 work of artists like Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt, and to the later Surrealist and nonobjective 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. Bacchanal was painted when the artist was at the height of his international renown, and dates to 1905, the same year in which 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 ancient Greece and Rome 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 in an interest in dichotomies; 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. Among the most important of these opposing pairs was a conflict between Apollonian and Dionysian modes of creation, an idea that was central to both Stuck and Nietzsche and has been called by Margot Th. Brandlhuber, ‘one of the most important aesthetic theories at the end of the nineteenth century’ (Franz von Stuck, Frye Art Museum, exh. cat., 2013, p. 48).
‘For Nietzsche, Apollo is responsible for form, clarity, well-defined outlines, dreams, and individuality. He is thus also the god of structure, of the theoretical, intellectual imagination aspiring to measured, ordered, harmonious form. Dionysus, on the other hand, stands for the sensual, expressive, spontaneous, and erratic, for the dichotomous experience of the world, for licentious excesses, for wild disorganization, for chaos, dance, and the dissolution of the individual’ (ibid.). Indeed Stuck’s own mythological and allegorical oeuvre can in large part be divided into works which reflect the lightness, form, and rationality of Apollo and those like the present work, which delve into the wild, sensual, expressive, hedonistic pleasure of Dionysus.
Nietzsche believed that while the Apollonian and Dionysian modes of creation were in inherent conflict with one another, the conflict between the two was necessary for artistic production, and indeed both ideas can be found even within a composition like Bacchanal, which in its very subject matter is a Dionysian theme. Stuck took a traditional – Apollonian – approach to the figurative elements of the composition, executing Academic preparatory studies from nude models, at least three of which, for the three central figures, survive. In rendering these figures in paint, however, Stuck returns to the Dionysian mode of creation. The paint is applied in broad, freely handled passages as well as thin hatches of paint which give the impression of being quickly and violently applied.
In the formal structure of the composition too, Stuck contrasts the simple, rational Doric columns and flat planes of the foreground which create a frame within the composition against the wild and swirling Dionysian thrall of the figurative group. Even the spatial contrast of these two parts of the composition reflects this idea. The sharply vertical foreground elements are contrasted against a low, equally sharp horizontal background which has the effect of compressing the spatial depth of the composition in a way which disorients the viewer. The backlighting of the ecstatic figures in motion around the fire and the acidic blue and black of the largely abstracted ‘landscape’ behind the figures also add to this effect.
Stuck’s palette is strikingly dissonant in an effect to create strong contrast between the separate planes of the work. Bacchanal is strongly dominated by the primary colors, the blues in the background and the rhythmically alternating bright red and yellow of the foreground figurative group and in the centrally place fire that illuminates them. This repetition in the use of color is meant to echo the rhythm and undulation of the figures moving around the fire. The remainder of the painting is given over to blacks and to flesh tones, with the exception of the thin wisps of smoke rising from the fire, through which ghoulish smiling faces are emerging. The use of lighter flesh tones in the bodies of the women and darker tones in the bodies of the men follows pictorial convention and is seen throughout the artist’s work.
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 20th century art. 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 (fig. 1), and even further to the pathos-filled and dream-like subject matter of the Surrealists, like René Magritte (fig. 2). For much of the last century art historians disregarded Stuck’s work, and Symbolism generally, as an aberration in the narrative which connects 19th and 20th century painting, but recent studies have finally begun to acknowledge the innovation and importance of Munich’s ‘painter price,’ in the development of modern art, work which continues to present day.

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