German Empire - Expo Paris 1878

Missing picture


Germany did not think it should take part in the 1878 Universal Exhibition. It was wrong. No animosity was to be feared, indeed, on this peaceful ground. On the contrary, the courteous struggle between all the nations of the continent could only result in a moral rapprochement between the two neighbouring countries.

The room reserved for the German fine arts is one of the best arranged from the point of view of light. The paintings are well placed; there are no compartments in the middle of the room that divide the light and create shadows; the daylight falls from above and is diffused discreetly, but more than sufficiently, through light white canvases.

On all sides, we read: - the German exhibition is out of the competition; it deserves it indeed.

We could perhaps argue that the German artists have only sent us specially selected works, i.e. their masterpieces; this is no reason for us not to admire them, and we will, on the contrary, feel a loyal pleasure in giving them with all our strength the dose of praise that our conscience will command us to attribute to them.

In his official report on the fine arts at the London Exhibition (1874), M. G. Lafenestre made the following judgment on German artists:
"Gifted in general with a spirit more literary than practical, the Germans are, even the most illustrious, draughtsmen only by will and colourists only by chance... Most of them have no other merit than that "merit which is commonplace today, of easily and pleasantly arranging four or five characters in an intimate and domestic setting. The rest, quality of the drawing, quality of the colour, quality of the light in general, is of little importance to them.

We thought it necessary to mention this appreciation of a rather authoritative man; but we do not completely agree with it and we believe that German art deserves to be judged with more impartiality, and especially to be judged from a higher level.

On the subject of German art, M. Marius Vachon wrote in Le Rappel:
"The Dusseldorff school, which has definitively dethroned the Munich school, tends more and more to move away from its primordial character.

"The concern for form is less subordinated to the concern for the subject, which formed the basis of its aesthetics; the physiognomy of its productions seems to show that the artists no longer feel that they have done enough for art by imagining a more or less pleasant or more or less sentimental subject.

"There is a certain auspicious tendency among them to return to the sound and fruitful principles bequeathed to us by the great masters in their masterly works.

"They recognise that painting is something other than illumination."

One hundred and seventy-eight artists sent canvases and sculptures to the Exhibition; in this figure are not included the works of engravings and lithographs, nor other deserving subjects, of which the following is the nomenclature:
Gallery of Shakespeare; bookseller-publisher, G. Grote, Berlin; 16th century (Jensen); bookseller-publishers, Velhagen and Clasing, Leipzig. - Gallery of Gustav Freitag; bookseller-publisher, E. Schlœmp, Leipzig -Switzerland (Kaden); bookseller-publisher, J. Engel-born, Stuttgart. - Italy (Stieler, Paulus and Kaden); bookseller-publisher, J. Engelborn, Stuttgart. - Schiller's poetry; bookseller-publisher J.-G. Cotta, Stuttgart. - From the German mountains; journey on the Rhine, bookseller-publisher, A. Krœner, Stuttgart. -The craft of art; bookseller-publisher, W. Spemann, Stuttgart. - Imagerie de Munich, bookseller-publisher, Braun and Schneider, Munich. - Journal des Beaux-Arts (Dr. C. de Lützow); Album for modern xylography in Germany; bookseller-publisher, E -A. Seeman, Leipzig.

The allegorical genre is splendidly represented by the famous painting of M. Henneberg, the Pursuit of Fortune, which obtained such a great success at the Paris Salon.

We do not have enough space to give the account of this exhibition, which is as interesting from the point of view of the works as it is from the point of view of the school, all the development that it would entail.

We will therefore limit ourselves to citing the main paintings. We shall first note the Forge :
The Forge by M. Adolphe Menzel, decorated in 1867, was much talked about before it arrived at the Champ de Mars.

The forge is at work, the incandescent metal blocks come out of the furnaces to pass under the rolling mill, illuminating with an intense fire the burnished faces of the workers whose rest of the body is lost in the shadows; some of them throw water on their faces to resist this burning heat; others are sitting in a corner, having their meal: it is not their turn to give. No detail is forgotten in this immense black workshop, with its terribly luminous centre; one can distinguish the most diverse instruments, the gears, the flywheels, the enormous hammers; the reflections of the furnace on the faces of the blacksmiths are rendered with an unheard-of accuracy, which one would have thought impossible.

This Forge is magnificent; it was inspired to the famous artist by an excellent thought, and it certainly opens a new way, which is perhaps that of the great painting of the future.

Mr. Louis Knaus, - one of the great painters of Germany, who was honoured with the Medal of Honour in 1867 and promoted to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honour, has sent us a number of pictures which are pleasing in their bonhomie, their naturalness, their cheerfulness and their sentimental nuance.

We shall quote among others: -A Children's Party, which shows a collection of children of all ages seated in the open air, eating, arguing and laughing; it is meticulously arranged, although there is no sense of effort, and it is full of good, healthy gaiety; The clothes merchant and his son, and the little rabbit-skin merchant delighted to have made a good deal, have singularly expressive and lively physiognomies; so do the peasants deliberating around the earthenware stove with their pipes in their mouths. A painting of equally good execution, but of a very different character, is Burial in the Village. It is winter and the snow covers the fields and the roofs; the undertakers bring down the coffin by a narrow stone staircase; in Las, on the road, the school children are waiting to form a procession for the deceased; next to them are relatives, friends, acquaintances, with faces offering the most varied expressions, rendered by the artist with a happiness that would surprise another.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878