Fritz von Uhde

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Uhde in 1902

Fritz von Uhde (born Friedrich Hermann Carl Uhde; May 22, 1848 – February 25, 1911) was a German painter of genre and religious subjects. His style lay between Realism and Impressionism.


Uhde, young
Uhde, self-portrait, 1898

Uhde was born in Wolkenburg, Saxony. From an early age, he found art appealing, while studying at the Gymnasium at Dresden. In 1866 he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. Totally at variance with the spirit prevailing there,[1] later that year he left his studies for military service and became a professor of horsemanship to the regiment of the assembled guard. Nonetheless, "apparently this was little to his liking, for a year later he sought the opportunity again to take up art, and strove to gain the knowledge which he desired from such well-known men as Piloty, Dietz and Lindenschmidt."[2]

Uhde moved to Munich in 1877 to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. There, he particularly came to admire the Dutch old masters, specially Rembrandt. Unsuccessful in his attempts to gain admittance to the studios of either Piloty or Diez,[1] in 1879 he travelled to Paris where his studies of the Dutch painters continued under Mihály Munkácsy's supervision.[3] He worked for a short time in that master's studio, but principally studied from nature and his old Netherland models.[1] In 1882 a journey to Holland brought about a change in his style, as he abandoned the dark chiaroscuro he had learned in Munich in favor of a colorism informed by the works of the French Impressionists.[4] The new coloristic principles which he adopted are apparent in the Arrival of the Organ-Grinder (1883). He also seemed to sympathize with his contemporary Max Liebermann, whom he portrayed.

In about 1890, Uhde became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He was, with Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth, one of the leading figures in the Munich Secession, and later joined the Berlin Secession as well. Uhde became an honorary member of the academies of Munich, Dresden and Berlin.[3] Progressing in his naturalistic conception, Uhde gave rise to a complete change in German art, counting among his followers most of the younger generation.[1] He continued to paint until his last days and he died in Munich in 1911.


Organ grinder in Zandvoort, 1883

His early work consisted of landscapes and battle pieces, but Uhde's inclination was later almost solely directed towards genre art and religious subjects. His father had been the President of the Lutheran Church Council in Wolkenburg, and Uhde shared his father's Christian commitment.[5][6]

Uhde's work was often rejected by leading public opinion and the official art criticism who sometimes considered his representations of ordinary scenes as "vulgar" or "ugly". Nevertheless, his paintings also attracted the attention of others. One of these was Vincent van Gogh, who in personal correspondence mentioned Uhde.[7] Another was the critic Otto Julius Bierbaum who said "as a painter of children... Uhde is extraordinarily distinguished", not depicting them amusing but "with extreme, very strict naturalness."[4] Revivalist of the practice of treating Biblical episodes realistically by transferring them to modern days,Uhde's work was also appreciated by Christians who praised his symbolic message and sense of evangelical morality.[8]

In his work, Uhde often depicted the ordinary lives of families of peasants, fishermen, and sewers; children and youngsters, as well as young and old women. He chose both indoor and outdoor settings, with detailed and ordinary surroundings, and often natural colorful landscapes. In addition, he frequently depicted Jesus Christ as visiting common people, poor people and working class or proletarian families in settings of his country.[6][9][10][11] One of his well-known paintings was Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest (Komm, Herr Jesus, sei unser Gast), of the Berlin National Gallery, where Christ appears among the peasant family assembled for their meal in a modern German farmhouse "parlor".

Woman and ice scaters with fur, one of hist last paintings. (1911)

This work was specially criticized by some Catholics who saw it as a "desecration" of Christ,[12] whereas others perceived that the idea of painting "Christ among the common people here and now... built up a most significant art."[13]

In general, Uhde was an unconventional naturalist, as he said: "many of the French artists wished to find the light in Nature. I wished to find the light within the figure that I was presenting. In Christ I grasped the embodiment of the outward and the inward light." Like Dostoyevsky, Uhde's concept of beauty and standard of perfection was the figure of Christ, a reason why he considered himself the "first Idealist of Naturalism."[14]

In The Sermon on the Mount (Berlin, private collection), Uhde addresses a crowd of 19th-century harvesters, whereas in Christus Predigt am see (Sermon at the Sea), Christ preaches to a group of modern youngsters. Similar in conception are Suffer Little Children to come unto Me (Leipzig Museum), The Last Supper, The Journey to Bethlehem (Munich Pinakothek), and The Miraculous Draught of Fishes. Other works of his in public collections are: Saving Grace, at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris; Christ at Emmaus & Road to Emmaus (Gang nach Emmaus) at the Staedel Institute, Frankfort; The Farewell of Tobias, at the Liechtenstein Gallery, Vienna,[3] Noli me tangere (1894, New Pinakothek, Munich), The Wise Men from the East (1896, Magdeburg Museum), and Woman, Why Weepest Thou? (1900, Vienna Museum).[1]

Since Uhde's wife had died in the 1880s, he was also very involved in his daughters' lives, and he portrayed them several times.[15] In his later years, he made paintings of a woman with wings of angels, and he reproduced some biblical scenes like Abraham's trial (1897), The Last Supper (1897, Stuttgart Museum),The Ascension of Christ (1898, New Pinakothek, Munich), Nicodemus and Christ, Die Bergpredigt, The sermon (Die Predigt Christi, 1903), Tobias and the angel, The Holy Night (1911, Dresden Gallery), and Christ healing a sick child (1911).



  1. ^ a b c d e Wikisource-logo.svg "Uhde, Fritz von". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  2. ^ Gustav Stickley. 1911. The Craftsman, Volume 20. United Crafts, p. 631
  3. ^ a b c  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Uhde, Fritz Karl Hermann von". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ a b Forster-Hahn, et al., 2001, p. 178
  5. ^ James Retallack (2008), Imperial Germany 1871-1918. Short Oxford History of Germany. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019160710X, 9780191607103
  6. ^ a b West (2000), p. 21
  7. ^ Van Gogh Museum Asterdam. Illusions of reality.
  8. ^ A very favourable review was written in Cram, Ralph Adams (1908). Christian Art: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to Current Church Building, American and Foreign, and the Allied Ecclesiological Arts, with Expert Discussions of All Topics Relating to Christian Archaeology, Volume 3. R. S. Badger. p. 160: "It is about just this motive, Christ among the common people here and now, that Fritz Von Uhde has built up a most significant art. This artist is a man of mark. He commands respect. He has suffered for more than one artistic faith. In this new application of a principle which is, after all, not infinitely removed from that of much of the great religious painting of the past, there is an unquestionable quality of poetry, of devotion, and of power. The point of view is Protestant in so far as every aspect of hieratic or liturgical significance is debarred. But Fritz Von Uhnde commands, nevertheless, a profound admiration and is a moral force in the world. He is in line with the Gospels if not with an institutional art."
  9. ^ Patricia G. Berman (2002). James Ensor: Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889. Getty Publications. p. 83
  10. ^ Jan A. B. Jongeneel (2009). Jesus Christ in World History: His Presence and Representation in Cyclical and Linear Settings. Peter Lang. p. 211
  11. ^ Uhr, Horst (1990). Lovis Corinth. University of California Press. p. 92
  12. ^
  13. ^ Adams (1908). p. 160
  14. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), Art Gallery of Ontario (1981). German Masters of the Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Drawings from the Federal Republic of Germany. p. 35 ISBN 9780870992636
  15. ^


  • Forster-Hahn, Françoise, et al. (2001). Spirit of an Age: Nineteenth-Century Paintings From the Nationalgalerie, Berlin. London: National Gallery Company. ISBN 1-85709-981-8
  • West, Shearer (2000). The Visual Arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair. Manchester University Press, ISBN 0719052793, 9780719052798
  • W. Lewis Fraser (1897). A Religious Painter, Fritz Von Uhde.

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