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German painting and engraving of the 17th – early 20th century in the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus

The collection of the German art of the 17th – 21st centuries in the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus includes many interesting, mostly paintings and graphics of the 17th – 20th centuries.

The German art of the 17th – 18th centuries was greatly influenced by the common European art traditions. Germany artists were engaged in the art of Holland, Flanders, Italy and France. For example, Italian art had a great impact on the art of Johann Heinrich Schönfeld (1609–1682/1683). The exhibition presents painting ‘Bathing’ by an artist who belonged to Schönfeld’s circle. Their works are special with free forms, plastic stability, combination of fiction and imagination. The unknown painter made his idealistic world in which human figures, sculpture, unusual architecture and landscape are organic whole.

German masters often borrowed motives of foreign painters. This is typical for German artists painting in the Dutch style. Rembrandt’s style pieces appeared in the 18th century. These are mainly portraits depicting old men in exotic oriental costumes, berets, turbans decorated with precious brooches. So, the museum’s collection includes ‘Old Man in a Turban’ and ‘Portrait of a Man’ by unknown artists of the 18th century. The paintings contain distinctive gesture, sharp contrasts of light and shadow.

Dresden became an art center in Europe in the middle of the 18th century. French artist Louis de Silvestre (1675–1760) worked as the head of the School of Drawing and Painting in Dresden (since 1764 – the Dresden Fine Arts Academy) since 1727. It was founded in 1680. Talented local artists painted mainly portraits of the Polish and Saxon nobility. Among them are Anna Rosina (Barbara Rozina) Lisiewska (1713–1783), the author of ‘Portrait of Michał Kazimierz Ogiński’ (circa 1755). It is one of the brightest examples of the German ceremonial portrait of the 18th century in the museum’s collection. Michał Kazimierz Ogiński is presented as a general in the picture. However, he was a composer and a patron, a founder of the opera theatre and the chapel in Slonim, the first builder of the Oginski canal, a man whose name is inseparably related to the culture of Belarus. The portrait glorifies the man’s military courage.

Friedrich Hartmann Barisien (1724–1796) studied at the Dresden Drawing and Painting School. He worked mainly in the Russian Empire (Oranienbaum, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Peterhof and Riga) and at the court of the Duke of Courland Peter von Biron (1724–1800) in Mitau in the second half of the 18th century. The museum’s collection contains ‘The Portrait of Aleksey Dondukov’ (1761) who owned the Romanovo (now Lenino) estate of Orsha district, Mogilev province. Prince Aleksey Dondukov (circa 1734–1781) was the Khan of the Kalmyks of Baga-Tsohursky and Erketenevsky khanates. He was in the Russian service. He is presented as a cavalry captain of the Special Cavalry of the First Cadet Corps. The artist skillfully combines baroque formality and the model’s Mongolian features in the portrait.

Anton Graff (1736–1813) was one of the outstanding portrait painters of the second half of the 18th century. Swiss by birth, he studied under the guidance of Johann Ulrich Schellenberg (1709–1795) in Winterthur in 1753–1756. Later, he studied with the lead of Johann Jacob Hyde (1668–1748) in Augsburg. He worked in Ansbach, Augsburg and Regensburg. He was mentioned as a court painter at the Academy of Painting, Sculpture, Engraving and Architecture in Dresden since 1766. Anton Graff made the great portrait gallery of his contemporaries, including prominent German writers, poets, painters and scientists such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), Christoph Martin Wieland (1733–1813) and others. The museum’s collection includes ‘The Portrait of a Woman’ (1770s) which captures the romantic image of a young woman with a high powdered hairdo in the Rococo style. The woman is covered with a mantle. She is in an elegant polonaise with a cape thrown over her shoulders. Anton Graff depicts her velvet skin, shine of satin and pearls, flimsy lace.

In addition to portraiture, decorative painting took the lead in the German art of the first half of the 18th century. A lot of decorative painters designed interiors of palaces and churches with frescoes, and created altar images. Some paintings of Venetian masters, who worked in Germany, served as exemplars, for example, the fresco decoration of the Wurzburg residence of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770). South German painter Johann Zick (1702–1762) also worked on the decoration of the former residence of the princes-archbishops of Wurzburg. He painted the so-called ‘Garden Hall’. Johann Zick was also mentioned as an easel painter. The exhibition presents his ‘Judith and Holofernes’ (the late 1740s – 1750s). The artist knew the art of Rembrandt, some of whose works he even copied. Johann Zick ‘adopts’ the great Dutchman’s dramatic design, highlights and even biblical figures. The artist’s ‘Judith and Holofernes’ has an impressive composition of figures and dramatic light.

When King Frederick the Great (1712–1786) was alive, the French court art was popular in Germany. French artists’ works were collected and copied. Daniel Chodowiecki, the outstanding German painter of the 18th century, made French-style miniatures and enamels, and compositions in the style of Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), Nicolas Lancret (1690–1743) and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779). The painting ‘Minuet in the Park’ by Daniel Chodowiecki duplicates the central part of Antoine Watteau’s ‘Charm of the Ball’ (circa 1715–1717, oil on canvas, 52,5x65,2 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, inv. No. DPG156). Daniel Chodowiecki places the society in leafy shadows on the pond shore against the mountain and ruins. This composition is also seen in the artist’s painting ‘Minuet in the Park’ (1760s, oil on canvas, 74x115 cm) from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw (currently it is being deposited at the palace in Wilanów). Chodowiecki replaces the landscape, depicting the villa view or a part of the city against the background of the mountain group. In view of the laterally image of Watteau’s work, it is likely that Chodowiecki made compositions after the engraving (1730) by Jean-Baptiste Girard (1698 – after 1755).

The German art of the 18th century contains the battle genre influenced by Dutch artists. The exhibition displays ‘The Crimea Battle’ by Johann Friedrich Seupel (second half of the 18th – early 19th centuries). The painting depicts the fierce cavalry battle in the foreground during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1791.

The museum’s collection of the German painting of the 19th century displays ‘The Family Portrait’ (1850) by Gustav Adolf Hippius (1792–1856) who was a talented portrait painter, a lithographer and a teacher. He lived and worked in Estonia and St. Petersburg. It also presents ‘Rest’ (after 1840) by famous historical painter Karl Frederich Schulz (1796–1866) and ‘Returning Foragers’ (1875) by Wilhelm Alexander Meyerheim (1815–1882) who was a master of genre painting, a landscape painter and a portraitist.

The engraving has been one of the most popular types of the fine arts in Germany since the Renaissance. The works of Melchior Küsel (1626 – about 1683), the famous German engraver, are earlier exhibits in the museum’s collection of German graphics. The master’s largest graphic work was ‘Iconography of Johann Baur’. Melchior Küsel engraved after paintings by artist Johann Baur (1607–1642) for a long time. The first edition of ‘Iconography’ was published in Augsburg in 1670. The edition includes two engravings displayed at the exhibition – ‘Dispute’ and ‘The Raising of Lazarus’.

The 18th century is the heyday of reproduction engraving developed at the end of the previous century. The reproduction engravings made after paintings and drawings by great masters became more and more popular among collectors and art lovers during that time.

The greatest masters of German reproduction graphics of the 18th century were George Friedrich Schmidt (1712–1775) and Johann Georg Wille (1715–1808). Both engravers worked in this country for a long time. They closely cooperated with the greatest representatives of French engraving. It is no wonder that they engraved after paintings by French artists, or they engraved paintings stored at French collectors’. The German engraving of the 18th century was also influenced by the national painting, as well as by the Dutch art. The exhibition presents a number of reproduction engravings after paintings by both French and Dutch artists such as Adriaen van Ostade (1610–1685), Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667), Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681), Caspar Netscher (1635/1636–1684), David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690).

The author’s engraving played an essential role at the German school of the 18th century. Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712–1774) was a painter, a draftsman and an engraver. He became the greatest master of the author’s engraving. The artist used his original style of engraving and achievements in reproduction engraving methods. He was interested in the art of the Dutch masters of the 17th century. Engaged in the Little Dutch masters, Dietrich often varied plots, compositions, expressive methods and even size in his graphics and paintings. The exhibition displays Dietrich’s brilliant compositions ‘Haberdasher’ (1741), ‘Hungarian Rat-Poison Seller’ (1757), ‘Strolling Musicians’, ‘Two Bear Sighted People’ (1764) made in the Dutch style, and landscapes during his trip around Italy.

Augsburg and Nuremberg were the greatest art centers in the early 16th century. The Hertel family was one of the famous Augsburg families of engravers and painters. Father Hertel Johann-Georg and son Hertel Johann-Georg worked in Augsburg in the 18th century. It is known that they made mainly reproduction engravings. Their engravings after paintings by David Teniers the Younger are something special in the Hertels’ heritage. The museum’s collection includes ‘Peasant Dance’, ‘Card Players’, ‘Three Wanderers Landscape’ and ‘Moony House’ (all after 1748).

Johann Elias Riedinger (1698–1767) is a famous German animal painter, a draftsman and an engraver. He is also associated with Augsburg. The exhibition presents his etching ‘Old Exhausted Horse’ that is a plate from the series ‘Real-life sketches of some horses of different ages and purposes’ (1755 /?/).

Nuremberg was the second major engraving center in Germany in the 18th century. The exhibition presents two engravings ‘Peasant Family Landscape’ (1759) and ‘Resting Peasants Landscape’ (1760) by Johann Christoph Dietzsch (1710–1769), and etching ‘The Last Supper’ by Johann Justin Preissler (1698–1771). The etching is a plate from the series ‘Ruben’s paintings of the ceiling and domes of a burned out Jesuit church in Antwerp, large compositions and individual figures from the Old and New Testaments’ (1735) after Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640).

Mezzotint was one of the popular engraving methods in the 18th century. It has been known since the 1640s. This technique made it possible to achieve wealth of gradations and soft colors. Mezzotint was most often used to reproduce oil paintings. The exhibition presents the only example of colored mezzotint in the museum’s collection of German graphics that is ‘Angelica and Médor’ by Johann-Joseph Freidhoff (1768–1819) after Pietro Rotari (1707–1762).

The portrait became one of the most important genres in the 19th century. Engravers were engaged in the genre. They tried to depict the inward man, the model’s outward similarity as well as spiritual order in engraved portraits of the 19th century. For example, Johann-Ferdinand Kretlow (1767–1842) (‘Portrait of Count Stanisław Potocki’, 1819), Friedrich Jentzen (1804–1875) (‘Portrait of Prince Mikhail Vorontsov’, after 1856), Wilhelm Leibl (1844–1900) (‘Portrait of the Mother’, 1874; ‘Portrait of Dr. Julius Mayr’, 1898).

The early 20th century is various styles in the fine arts, unending searches and artists’ associations. Among German engravers of the 19th–20th centuries, it stands to mention Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) (‘In the Field’, 1907), Max Liebermann (1847–1935) (‘Nude Rider on the Beach’, 1908) and Max Slevogt (1868–1932) (‘Dancer Marietta di Rigardo’, 1904). They are representatives of German Impressionism and Jugendstil.

The exhibition shows the works of the German school masters and the evolution of art in this country during the 17th – early 20th centuries.



The exhibition curator Svetlana Prokopeva, Head of the Russian and Foreign Art Department



Unknown artist of the 17th century

Circle of Johann Heinrich Schönfeld (1609–1682/1683)


Oil on canvas


Karl Friedrich Schulz. 1796–1866

Rest. After 1840

Oil on canvas


Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (Dietricy). 1712–1774

Two Bear Sighted People. 1764

Etching on paper


Max Liebermann. 1847–1935

Nude Rider on the Beach. 1908

Plate from the series ‘Seven etchings’. 1909

Lithography on paper