Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Franz von Lenbach: Portrait of Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) 1890c.

Franz von Lenbach 

Franz von Lenbach: Portrait of Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), Franz von Lenbach
Oil on Panel
19th Century
36 x 28 inches 90.2 x 71.9cm
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Lenbach's portraits of the great German Chancellor do not merely demonstrate the considerable technical virtuosity that made the painter the favourite of German Society during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Additionally, as one of the last of a hundred portraits that Lenbach produced of Bismarck, it displays the psychological acuity that can only come from a prolonged and detailed observation.

That this portrait lacks the bombastic quality of many images of the Iron Chancellor should not seem surprising. It was painted in the last full year of his office when Bismarck was 74. Encouraged by the heir apparent On March 18, 1890 two years after Emperor William II''s accession, Bismarck was forced to resign. His last years were devoted to composing his memoirs, a reflective tendency apparent in this portrait.

Lenbach -whose training and early predilections lay in the field of history and genre painting- executed his first portrait of Bismarck in 1878, initiating the series of which the portrait in the Lenbachhaus in Munich is a good example, and close in date to the present painting. From this point, Lenbach became the most celebrated contemporary German portrait painter, painting all the important men of the time, including the emperor William I (1886--7; Munich, Neue Pin.) and his family, Field Marshal Helmut Graf Moltke (1880; Bonn, Bundeskanzleramt) and the pope Leo XIII (1885; Munich, Neue Pin.).
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