THE HISTORY OF THE KRONBERG PAINTER'S COLONY
The painter’s colony in Kronberg was one of the most earliest of the German painter’s colonies of the 19th century. Altogether 60 artists worked, over several years, in the Kronberg painter’s colony including such well known names as Wilhelm Trübner, Jakob Fürchtegott Dielmann, Hans Thoma or Carl Morgenstern. Anton Burger’s, move to Kronberg, more than 150 years ago, in 1858, is associated today with the foundation of the Kronberg artist’s colony. The fluctuation in the colony at times closely resembled our present day cultural tourism.
THE EMERGENCE OF AN ARTIST'S COLONY
The history of the Kronberg artist’s colony is closely associated with the nearby City of Frankfurt, where many of the artists, who we now count as part of the colony, were born. To name only a few: Anton Burger, Philipp Rumpf, Karl Theodor Reiffenstein, Otto Scholderer as well as Heinrich Hasselhorst and Adolf Hoeffler. Besides the place of birth, these artists were connected in particular, through their common studies under Jakob Becker who held the Chair of Genre and Landscape Painting at the Städelschen Art Institute from 1842 to 1872.
Through the (sometimes only temporary) removal of their domestic centres to the rustic surroundings of the Taunus village the artists reacted to increasing industrialisation and technical changes in the big city culture. In the 1840s Anton Burger, the most important of the Kronberg painters, was the first to move to the Taunus in order to paint surrounded by nature. By getting close to original life forms the artists sought to overcome the contrast between art and life. The rusticity served them as a projection space for a still intact and unaltered “healthy world”. In this concentration on the landscape they found internalisation, peace, and the experience of an elementary truth. Here it was not about the most accurate portrayal of the nature of the subject. The motives, often simple, once found, served much more as an image of a personal experience of a reality that they captured in painterly values.
The clear rejection by Anton Burger and his artist colleagues of the ossification of traditions and teaching methods of the academies was shown in their pictures by the rejection of composed landscapes excessively filled with allegorical ingredients or historical references. In future the original landscape and the rustic atmosphere would replace the motifs of historical painting.
From the beginning the guest house “Zum Adler” in Kronberg played a special role. It offered the new arrivals not only accommodation and sustenance but also acted as a meeting place for the artists. They came to innkeeper Renker’s “Adler”, celebrated some of their legendary artists festivals, and exchanged views over artistic questions.
Stimuli from France and the Netherlands
The Kronberg painters received important stimuli from France and the Netherlands. In 1820 the French art theorist Henri de Valenciennes developed the first approaches for a new assessment of landscape painting. The Barbizon school, founded by Theodore Rousseau and Charles Daubigny in 1830, acted as the model approach. It comprised a group of French artists who painted from nature in the Forest of Fontainbleu not far from Paris. They were the inventors of the “paysage intime” a style of realistic landscape painting that emerged from the actual observation of nature and consciously rejected the composed idealised landscape, as well as heroic romanticism, from the start. Unchanged nature stood for them as the symbol for artistic freedom from academic constraints.
Carl Peter Burnitz travelled to Paris in 1851 and had close contact with the Barbizon school which found expression in simple, landscape motifs, bathed in silvery-green light. Anton Burger’s journey to Paris and his meeting with Gustav Courbet was a decisive experience.
The rendition of immediately experienced impressions from nature, and of simple motifs from the native environment, were together a return to the achievements of the Netherlands landscape painting of the 17th century and impressed themselves on Burger. The character of a rather low horizon or topographical precision were still of importance but they receded in the face of aspects such as the incidence of sunlight or the influence of natural forces.
Through Burger’s pupils Nelson Kinsley, Philipp Franck und Fritz Wucherer increasingly impressionistic tendencies found their place in Kronberg’s painting oeuvre.
From Rustic Idyll to Noble Villa Settlement
However, as in many other artist’s settlements, advances did not halt in Kronberg. After the end of the 19th century wealthy Frankfurt citizens discovered the small Taunus town as a health and holiday resort and built summer villas in the most attractive places. After Kronberg had not only an unofficial king, the painting king Anton Burger, but also with the advent of Victoria of Prussia, a real empress, the romantic seclusion and rustic peace came to an end for the resident painters.From Empress Friedrich, the widow of Emperor Friedrich III, the town’s development experienced a considerable stimulus. In 1888 she settled in Kronberg, in the immediate vicinity of Schönberg, and purchased the property belonging to the Frankfurt banker Jacques Reiß, the Villa Schönbusch, and between 1889 and 1894 built, with the help of the architect Ernst Eberhardt, Schloß Friedrichshof as her widow’s residence.
Visitors can appreciate the Empresses artistic feel for art in the splendid building which once contained the empress’s own studio. “If I had not had to be a Royal Princess, I would have been a painter” she is alleged to have said. A society oriented artists group who, like Norbert Schrödl or Ferdinand Brütt were well off and close to the Empress, now joined the “Back to Nature” movement. They turned their attention mainly to portraiture and historical painting of society’s events.
The Disintegration of the Colony
As impressionism triumphed in Germany the artist’s colony gradually disintegrated. Since the death of Anton Burger the growth of the colony had been severely restricted and the younger generation of artists Nelson G. Kinsley, Philipp Franck and Fritz Wucherer, despite adopting impressionistic tendencies in their painting could not revive the colony. In 1948 Fritz Wucherer and Emil Rumpf, the last official representatives of the Kronberg painter’s colony, died.