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How Do You Say Sic Transit Gloria In German?

In Frankfurt this summer, the Städel Museum is presenting “a major survey on the lifework of the famous painter and graphic artist.” Running from July 3 to Sept. 29, it will show an artist “once celebrated by the public and art critics alike as the ‘greatest German master’.”

o_Hans_Thoma_Der_KriegHis name is Hans Thoma.  Who? Yes, “Hans Thoma: ‘The German People’s Favourite Painter’ ” will be reveal the work of a man born in 1839, with a career that spanned decades until his death in 1924. The Städel says it is out to show that

Thoma was far more than just the painter of picturesque Black Forest landscapes with which he is commonly associated today. The Städel survey aims, on the contrary, to introduce an oeuvre that will doubtless prove unexpectedly multifaceted for many visitors – with regard to the motifs and themes as well as the artistic media employed. The spectrum of Thoma’s art encompasses not only paintings and prints but also wall decorations, calendars and postcard books as well as primers for children. … With a wide range of different pictorial genres and themes, he catered to a public that was hoping for an art that would provide it with values and contents suitable for establishing a national identity.

Well, have a look and decide for yourself. I pasted a few of Thoma’s works here.

o_Hans_Thoma_Zug_der_Goetter_nach_WalhallaBut whatever you think, I commend the Städel for going against the crowd, digging into its collection — it owns nearly ninety paintings and several hundred works on paper by Thoma — and showing an artist that seems so retro. Max Hollein, the museum’s director, said he was doing it because Thoma, “in his day, played a central role in German art and society.” And Felix Krämer, the head of the Department of Modern Art at the Städel and curator of the exhibition, added that “Thoma’s role as a key figure in ‘German art’ around 1900 – an exploitation which continued until well into the National Socialist era – renders him a phenomenon that demands reassessment.”

o_Hans_Thoma_Selbstbildnis_vor_BirkenwaldI can’t imagine that they expect overflow crowds, particularly not younger crowds – though I may be wrong. German interest in art may differ from American’s.

The conclusion may be that Thoma belongs in storage, but let’s see. In the meantime, museums elsewhere might consider if they have someone like Thoma in their storerooms. They, too, might merit a current look.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Stadel (top to bottom — “The War,” “Train of the Gods to Valhalla,” Self-Portrait)



  1. Barbara Johns says:

    Look at what the Frye Art Museum in Seattle is doing with its collection!

  2. Yes, it is very retro. Anyway, as illustrator he is more interesting:

    (In the indispensable site, the complete book):


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