Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
In 1907 Trübner began his series of paintings of terraces and the shoreline along Lake Starnberg near Munich. These are luminous representations of cheerful and natural scenes executed with great creative feeling. A wealth of colour, the simplest of lines and a strong feeling for space are combined in these bold and effective paintings.
This little study of Lake Starnberg dates from 1911. Compared to Castle Grounds in Lichtenberg there is an evident development, moving away from the use of colour which was still picturesque in concept to a type of colouring with stronger constructive modelling, from muted harmonies with flowing movements to a tighter, more forceful unity of colour. The modulation of tones in the Castle Grounds in Lichtenberg has given way to the modulation of colour in Lake Starnberg. The paintings are lighter, and at the same time simpler and more spacious. The palette still consists of harmonious greens, blues and yellow/browns. But it is lighter, and there is also a simplification of style and more force in the colours.
Lake Starnberg is divided into a calm, still right-hand half, in which everything-meadows and water-is treated with very broad layers of the brush as simply and quietly as possible, and a left-hand side with the three beech trees. If the trees were not there, a strict arrangement of parallels would be the only element remaining: strips of grass, a path, meadow, water, the opposite shore, the sky. Some representations of Lake Starnberg are arranged solely around this strip and are reminiscent of the parallelism of the landscapes painted by the Swiss Ferdinand Hodler at about the same time. However, this comparison immediately reveals the difference between the two artists. In contrast to Hodler's works, Trübner does not aim to symbolise anything or point to anything hidden. As in his earliest works, Trübner's works are "pure painting", even though the stylistic means had changed in the course of his artistic development.
Wilhelm Trübner wrote in his article "The Understanding of Art Today", published in 1892: "Any motif is interesting and even the least important has enough to offer for someone who is interested; in fact, the simpler the object the more interesting and perfect I can present it in painting and colour. Everything depends simply on how I present it, and not on what I present". In the same text, however, and with regard to the financial aspect, Trübner complained about the preference given to French, Dutch and Spanish paintings, i.e. foreign ones, in the acquisition policies of museums and collectors of his day.
In 1911, the year in which this study of Lake Starnberg was painted, the purchase of Van Gogh's Poppy Field by the Bremen Art Gallery aroused general indignation. Trübner was among the signatories of the text "A protest by German artists". A little later that year, as a reaction to this, a compilation of declarations about modem art by collectors, artists and museum directors was published entitled "Fighting for art. The answer to 'A Protest by German artists'". It is characteristic of Trübner's contradictory nature that he also supported this counter-protest.
In 1903 the painter received an Honorary Professorship from the Karlsruhe Kunstakademie. He became nationally renowned in 1906 through the so-called "exhibition of the century" in the Berlin Nationalgalerie where several of his paintings were shown. At that time the Nationalgalerie already owned three of Trübner's most important works. The Nationalgalerie had not only purchased the first paintings by Manet, Cézanne and Liebermann to enter a German museum, but it was also the first museum to acquire a painting by Wilhelm Trübner.
However, it was the first exhibition which the Baden Kunstvereing organised in Karlsruhe in 1911 on the occasion of Trübner's 60th birthday, that brought home the entire range of this artist's varied oeuvre to an interested public.