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Makart, Hans

MAKART, HANS (1840-1884), Austrian painter, born at Salzburg, was the son of an inspector of the imperial castle. He has been aptly called the first German painter of the 1pth century. When he, as a youth, entered the Vienna Academy German art was under the rule of Cornelius's cold classicism. It was entirely intellectual and academic. Clear and precise drawing, sculpturesque modelling, and pictorial erudition were the qualities most esteemed; and it is not surprising that Makart, poor draughtsman to the very last, with a passionate and sensual love of colour, and ever impatient to escape the routine of artschool drawing, was found to be "devoid of all talent" and forced to leave the Vienna Academy. He went to Munich, and after two years of independent study attracted the attention of Piloty, under whose guidance he made rapid and astonishing progress. The first picture he painted under Piloty, " Lavoisier in Prison," though timid and conventional, attracted attention by its sense of colour. In the next, " The Knight and the Water Nymphs," he first displayed the decorative qualities to which he afterwards sacrificed everything else in his work. With the " Cupids " and " The Plague in Florence " of the next year his fame became firmly established. " Romeo and Juliet " was soon after bought by the Austrian emperor for the Vienna Museum, and Makart was invited to come to Vienna, where a large studio was placed at his disposal. In Vienna Makart became the acknowledged leader of the artistic life of the city, which in the 'seventies passed through a period of feverish activity, the chief results of which are the sumptuously decorated public buildings of the Ringstrasse.

The enthusiasm of the time, the splendour of the fetes over which Makart presided, and the very obvious appeal of his huge compositions in their glowing richness of colour, in which he tried to emulate Rubens, made him appear a very giant to his contemporaries in Vienna, and indeed in all Austria and Germany. The appearance of each of his ambitious historical and allegorical paintings was hailed with enthusiasm the " Catherina Cornaro," " Diana's Hunt," " The Entry of Charles V. into Antwerp," " Abundantia," " Spring," " Summer," " The Death of Cleopatra " and the " Five Senses." He reached the zenith of his fame when, in 1879, he designed, single-handed, the costumes, scenic setting, and triumphal cars of the grand pageant with MAKING-UP PRICE MALABAR which the citizens of Vienna celebrated the silver wedding of their rulers. Some 15,000 people participated in the pageant, all dressed in the costumes of the Rubens and Rembrandt period. Makart died in Vienna in October 1884.

Unfortunately Makart was in the habit of using such villainous pigments and mediums that in the few decades which have passed since his death, the vast majority of his large paintings have practically perished. The blues have turned into green ; the bitumen has eaten away the rich glow of the colour harmonies; the thickly applied paint has cracked and in some instances crumbled away. And this loss of their chief quality has accentuated the weaknesses of these pictures the faulty drawing, careless and hasty execution, lack of deeper significance and prevalence of glaring anachronisms. Important examples of his work are to be found at the galleries of Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart. For the Vienna Museum he also executed a series of decorative lunettes.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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