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Waldmüller, Ferdinand Georg

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller Sonntagsruhe

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1793 Vienna – 1865 Hinterbrühl/Lower Austria

Title
„Sonntagsruhe“ (“Sunday Rest”)
Time
1859
signed
and dated lower left “Waldmüller 1859”
Technique
oil on wood
Measurements
22½×17½ in

The master of genre painting, sought-after portraitist of a high-class, often noble clientèle, and outstanding landscape painter, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller is nowadays considered to be the most significant artist of the Austrian Biedermeier period. Waldmüller was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he himself had once studied. However, his concept of art, which was dedicated to the study of nature and open-air painting, led to a rupture with the traditional institution and characterizes him as an early pioneer of the modern era. The genre paintings from his prolific phase of creation in the 1850s show Waldmüller’s ingenious use of light as an element of his aesthetic work. With a light, skillful brushstroke, the painter transforms the sunlight into the main feature of his work. It bestows the surfaces, objects, and people with presence, bringing them to life. In addition
to bourgeois scenes, farm life in particular was a preferred subject of Waldmüller’s. Despite socio-critical tones, he usually shows the joyful moments of this often tough existence, such as celebrations at the end of the working day or on holidays. Generally, the groups of figures are limited to just a few protagonists; this means, however, that they convey emotions and the diversity of human fates all the more intensively.

The painting “Sonntagsruhe” (“Sunday Rest”) is part of the important subject area of the “ joy of motherhood” in the artist’s oeuvre. Waldmüller uses the sunlight falling into the farmhouse parlor to give the mother and child figures a lifelike shape, to depict the relief-like nature of the rough plaster in an almost poetic manner, and to impart great warmth and intimacy to the scene. The shadows in the upper and lower areas of the image additionally accentuate the effect of the light. Here, Waldmüller’s mastery of the precise depiction of clothing and textiles can be observed just as well as the high quality of his still lives, as becomes evident in, for example, the form of the glass milk bottle or the bouquet of wild flowers. “Sonntagsruhe” is a masterpiece by Waldmüller, which conveys to us a strong impression of comfort and quiet happiness. It is among the most frequently published works in this master’s oeuvre.

Even during his lifetime, F. G. Waldmüller was renowned as an artist far beyond the borders of Austria (exhibitions in 1856 in Buckingham Palace, 1861 in Cologne, and 1862 in London). Today, we can find his pieces not only in all the significant museums in Austria but also in many important collections and museums across the world (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rothschild Collection, the Princely Liechtenstein Collections and many more).

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