Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Wilhelm Trübner had a particular preference for historic and romantic places. He painted landscapes that were lived in, cultivated and architecturally defined. Among the buildings that appear in his works were Amorbach Monastery, Chiemsee Convent, Heidelberg Castle or Hemsbach Castle in Odenwald which he even leased for several years.
His affinity for historic places was combined with an interest in mysterious, fairy-story forest clearings and secluded spots in parks. Here Trübner was clearly inspired by German Romanticism, a feature evident in German art around 1900, to the extent that the idea of a second Biedermeier has been suggested, although its expression differs from artist to artist. Trübner, who came from an upper class Heidelberg family, was obviously familiar with knew the art of late German Romanticism, such as the paintings and prints of Ludwig Richter and Moritz von Schwind.
In contrast to the Romantic artists, however, Trübner's drawings were less developed. He structured the surface of the painting with the brush. Using broad strokes the thick flecks of colour were added, wet on wet, to create a combination of muted tones. His instinctive feeling for colour and light unfailingly found the correct light value in nature for every part of the painting. The result is a network of shadows across the canvas, with a shifting play of light that brings the landscape to life. Trübner's representations of light and air in nature are in motion, but their form is firm. They are intimate and magnificent at the same time, simultaneously proof of a romantic and realistic conception of nature.
Also similar to other works of the period, the representation of Castle Grounds in Lichtenberg in Odenwald reveals a clear structure and an equilibrium between open landscape formation and the firm architecture of the painting. The narrow range of colours, reduced to a few shades, flows with countless nuances and is charged with coloured light values.
This bold way of applying the colours gives the painting its liveliness. In comparison with later landscapes, such as the Lake Starnberg, the shades of the painting are still quite dark and subdued. Compared to his works of the 1870s, this work has a carefree, youthful feel. In paintings such as the Castle Grounds in Lichtenberg in Odenwald the artist found a totally unmistakable personal style. Similar to those of Liebermann or Corinth, Trübner's landscapes of these years are among the best achievements of German art at the turn of the century. Liebermann is considered to be more European, but Trübner turned to a problem which was not dealt with consistently before the German Expressionists: the representation of spaces, specifically of spaces in depth, without the use of perspective, exclusively rendered through light and colour.
Numerous anecdotes have survived regarding visitors' confusion in the face of such "non-representational" art, also in view of the high prices demanded, for example, by Trübner. Thus, we know of the outrage of a Prussian civil servant, whose apparent words were: "I come into this exhibition, there's a green blob hanging on the wall. It says 'Trübner' underneath. Beckon a bigwig of the exhibition to come over. 'What's that supposed to cost?' Says the man: '10,000 marks'. I say: 'My dear sir, you'll never sell this, this is Senior Civil Servant Berkow telling you, don't you know!'".