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Wilhelm Leibl: 1844 - 1900

Wilhelm Leibl was born on October 23, 1844, in Cologne, where his father was director of music at Cologne Cathedral. In 1861 he began to study under a local painter and three years later went to Munich Academy. Between 1866 and 1869 he made further studies under two different painters. He then exhibited for the first time in Munich. His early work was heavily influenced by Dutch painting. He chose everyday subjects, which he treated entirely without the sentiment and romanticism typical of contemporary German art.

In 1869, Leibl lived for nine months in Paris, working with Gustave Courbet and thus strengthening his attachment to realism. The Franco-Prussian war made it necessary for him to return to Germany. In 1870 he was awarded the Paris gold medal for his Portrait of Frau Gedon, in which Rembrandt's influence is clearly decernable.

He stayed in Munich from 1870 to 1873, then at various small villages in Bavaria, living in the same way as his peasant neighbors and painting the scenes around him. He still viewed his subjects with great matter-of-factness; no detail escaped his careful, perfect draftsmanship. This element of his mature work was to influence the New Objectivists of the 1920's, their figure studies and portrait drawing in particular.

From 1878 to 1881 Leibl made his home in the little Bavarian town of Berbling, where he painted Three Women in Church. He moved to Aibling and then, in 1892, to Kutterling. He died in Wurzburg on December 4, 1900. Although his subjects remained free to the end from any trace of romantic idealism, Dutch art failed to retain its hold on him in his later years. He then achieved a kind of personal impressionism characterized by a stronger, broader, though always delicate, technique.

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