Franz von Stuck • Lucifer
Oil on hardboard
29 : 25.5 cm
Signed lower right
Bearing a label on the verso reading: ‟Gemäldesammlung des Hofschauspielers Alois Wohlmuth. Kat. 265 Franz von Stuck [illegible] 3264”; vestiges of further labels on the frame
Heinrich Voss, Franz von Stuck 1863-1928. Werkkatalog der Gemälde mit einer Einführung in seinen Symbolismus, Munich 1973, 14/275
Alois Wohlmuth, Munich
Auction Sale, Helbing, Munich, 14-16 March 1922, lot 214, plate XII
Private Collection, Germany
This oil study is one of very few preparatory studies in oil for the painting Lucifer (Voss 15/276). This highly important early work was to lay the foundation for Stuck’s reputation as one of the leading symbolist artists of the period. Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, a prince of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, acquired the large-format version of the painting shortly after its completion. It is now held at the Bulgarian National Gallery in Sofia.
Stuck’s etching of the motif dates from the same period. It enjoyed widespread popularity at the time.
A portrait by Gabriel von Max depicting a former owner of the study – the distinguished Munich court actor Alois Wohlmuth – is now in the collection of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich. The Wohlmuth collection was dispersed in 1922 and sold at auction by Hugo Helbing in Munich. The collection included a large number of works by artists of the Munich School.
An identically framed painting by Stuck is now held at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. According to the Stuck expert Margot Th. Brandlhuber, Head of Collections and Museum Curator, Stuck varnished the oil study in its frame in order to achieve perfect interaction between picture and frame and by blending the two, create a Gesamtkunstwerk, one unique piece of art.
Franz von Stuck
1863 Tettenweis (Bavaria) - 1928 Munich
Franz Stuck’s life is a story of rags to riches. A miller’s son, he advanced to be one of the most highly respected artists of his day. His princely lifestyle contrasted starkly with his modest beginnings, earning him the title Malerfürst.
As a child, Stuck showed precocious skill as a draughtsman. Unusually for a boy of his social rank, his talents were nurtured from an early age and he was sent to train at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich. After completing his training he enrolled at the Munich Academy. As an academy student in the years 1881-5 he produced humorous drawings for illustrated magazines and provided sketches for a portfolio titled Allegorien und Embleme. These works demonstrate a growing sensibility for ornamental effect and a penchant for highly imaginative mythological imagery, both of which were to form the bedrock of his artistic practice and bring him widespread recognition.
Stuck’s breakthrough came in 1889 when he was awarded a gold medal for a painting titled Der Wächter des Paradieses at the annual exhibition staged at the Munich Glaspalast. The painting, an idealized life-sized self-portrait, is now in the collection of the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. As a founder member of the Munich Secession in 1892 he was able to exercise increasing influence in official artistic circles. His appointment as professor at the Munich Academy in 1895, coupled with the construction of a magnificent villa on Prinzregentenstrasse in 1897-8 elevated his social status. The building was built and decorated according to his own plans – an attempt to create his own ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk through a symbiosis of architecture, painting and sculpture. He was ennobled in 1905.
Stuck’s importance lies in his unrivalled ability – as a draughtsman, painter and sculptor – to use his unerring decorative sensibility to break down the boundaries between fine and applied art. Echoing Arnold Böcklin and Max Klinger, his Symbolist imagery is filled with yearning for a world enraptured by beauty, between heroism and hedonism. Paintings like Die Sünde (Neue Pinakothek Munich), Der Krieg (Neue Pinakothek Munich) and Der Kuss der Sphinx (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest) and sculptures such as Verwundeter Kentaur and Reitende Amazone are icons of early twentieth-century art – works whose aesthetic appeal and pulling power are still unabated.