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The craftsman
Vol. XX, Number 6 (September 1911)

Art notes,   p. 631 PDF (493.5 KB)

Page 631

RITZ von Uhde, who is best known,
        in America at least, as a painter of
        religious subjects in realistic man-
        ner has recently died.    As we
 study a little into his biography we find
 that like most workers who have achieved
 in the world he went through long periods
 of difficulty in his youth. When he first
 turned his attention to art he went to the
 Gymnasium at Dresden to study. He was
 unsuccessful, and then in I866 he went
 away to become a soldier. Apparently this
 was little to his liking, for a year later he
 sought the opportunity again to take up art,
 and strove to gain the knowledge which he
 desired from  such well-known men as
 Piloty, Dietz and Lindenschmidt.     Al-
 though he worked hard he felt failure at
 his hand, and so two years after this he
 set out for Paris and sought Munkacsy,
 whom he found possessed the gift of open-
 ing his mind and developing his hand. His
 early work consisted almost entirely of
 landscapes and battle pieces. In later years
 he developed the interest in religious sub-
 jects and also delighted in painting his own
 sunny garden in which his daughters loved
 to stroll.
   In speaking of his art Fritz von Uhde
always laid special stress upon the fact
that his painting had grown to be a sort of
religion with him. His presentations of the
figure of Christ were at once artistic and
eminently human. In fact one recalls these
pictures as having so much simplicity and
beauty that nothing better can serve to il-
lustrate the finest of what he strove to ac-
complish. From the start in his work he
made every effort to release himself from
the formality of the. atelier, and tried al-
ways to give his portraits the soul of the
  In the winter of 1883 and 1884 there
appeared his first religious picture, "Suffer
Little Children to Come Unto Me." This
was recognized at once as something far
beyond a mere realistic painting of a phase
of religion. The picture though realistic in
detail was imbued with a deep religious
significance. The artist himself said: "Be-
fore commencing this work I had begun to
realize how children follow  the Spirit."
And so in his paintings of the figure of
Christ, von Uhde laid hold of the great
spiritual image of Christ. He never rep-
resented Him merely in historical type. "In
studying the problem of the painting of
Christ's figure," von Uhde said, "I found
it to be the painting of the great problem
of life. To me He was the bringer of light
to the darkness of the world. Many of the
French artists wished to find the light in
Nature. I wished to find the light within
the figure that I was presenting. In Christ
I grasped the embodiment of the outward
and the inward light. I wished to bring
things out of the darkness, as Rembrandt
found all things through light."
   How seriously von Uhde took up this
problem of light in his religious painting is
shown in his work. From the French and
younger Germans he received the impres-
sion that they worked from the opposite
point of view, in order to solve the prob-
lem. "It seems to me," he said, "that they
have gone no further than Velasquez and
Manet. To me these pictures in white
have nothing to do with light. The one
'"Thom I honor most of all is Rembrandt.
Rubens and Velasquez painted better than
Rembrandt, but he was the greatest of
all painters because he was most power-
ful humanly. His grasp of all things was
from within out. He had something that
surpassed all other painters-a great hu-
manity. He is perhaps the only one who
could have painted the Christ."
   We now realize that von Uhde not only
was the forerunner of realistic religious
painting but at the same time a conserva-
tive who was willing to respect the tradi-
tions of his predecessors. In his death we
have lost a great man who has painted the
Christ so tenderly and humanly and affec-
tionately that his pictures have reached the
religious heart of an entire world.
HE art lovers of Pittsburgh are fortu-
I nate this autumn in having an inter-
esting loan exhibition comprising the pri-
vate collection of Mr. Burton Mansfield of
New Haven, Conn. Among the seventy-
five paintings in oil, water color and pastel
are works by Chase, Hassam, Ranger, La
Farge, Whistler, J. Francis Murphy,
Twachtman, Dessar, Abbey, Davis, Dewing,
Homer, Inness and Sargent. Foreign art
is represented by East, Mesdag, Clausen,
Lenbach, Israels, Courbet, Stevens; the
Barbizon school by Daubigny, Corot, ::Millet,
and the early English landscape painters by
Constable, Bonnington, Old Crome and

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