Wilhelm Leibl - Peasants in Conversation / The Village PoliticiansGerman Realist Painter, 1844-1900 German painter, draughtsman and etcher. In 1861 he abandoned his apprenticeship as a locksmith in order to train as a precision instrument maker, though a month or so later he decided to train as an artist, at first under the Cologne history painter and writer Hermann Becker (1817-85). In 1863 he moved to Munich; he studied there from March 1864, at the Akademie der Bildenden K?nste, initially under Philipp von Foltz and Alexander Straehuber, drawing from plaster casts, and later in Hermann Ansch?tz's painting class. Here, Arthur von Ramberg (1819-75) stimulated Leibl's sensitivity to colour; and Karl Theodor von Piloty encouraged him to observe reality and incorporate its lessons boldly into compositions on historical themes. From the start, however, Leibl tended to think of his pictures in terms of form rather than content. While at the Akademie he first reached a standard of excellence with his draughtmanship, which is notable for its directness and objectivity. As an artist, Leibl's early works were not especially promising. However, as occurred throughout his career, a long period of mediocrity was crowned by an unexpected masterpiece, such as his portrait drawing of Aunt Josepha (c. 1864; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.). This is particularly striking for Leibl's use of the hands to add to the expression of the sitter's character and mood, a device he was to use frequently in later work. In Munich, Leibl supplemented the teaching of the Akademie by studying the works of the Old Masters in the Alte Pinakothek: he paid particular attention to painters of the Baroque period such as van Dyck, Cornelis de Vos and Rubens, and also to other great masters of portraiture such as Frans Hals and Vel?zquez. The presentation of the subject found in such works is reflected in Leibl's portrait of Frau Gedon (1869; Munich, Neue Pin.). When the work was shown at the Grossen Internationale Kunstausstellung in Munich in 1869 it was singled out as the best oil painting of the exhibition by Gustave Courbet and, as a result, Leibl was honoured with an invitation to Paris, where he arrived on 13 November 1869.
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