Carl von Marr 


Self-Portrait, Carl von Marr, Oil on canvas, 1877, Gift of Margaret Fink Harper, Museum of Wisconsin Art, 78
The Carl von Marr Collection

Carl von Marr (1858-1936) was born in Milwaukee to German immigrants. He trained under the tutelage of Wisconsin’s most noted artist of the time, Henry Vianden. In 1875, Marr left for study in Germany where he attended the Royal Academy in Weimar, the Royal Academy in Berlin, and then the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, His painting styles included academic realism, impressionism, symbolism and decorative arts. The largest collection of the artist’s work is on permanent display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Milwaukee-born Carl Marr (1858–1936) devoted his life to painting. In his early teens he took lessons from Henry Vianden, Wisconsin’s nineteenth-century grandmaster painter. In his late teens he acquired advanced training at several leading German art academies before finally completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich where he would later become a painting professor and director. 

Marr spent most of his adult life in Germany but frequently returned to America to visit family and to conduct business. His American patrons included the likes of financier J.P. Morgan and the publishing magnate Hearst family of California. Truly a transatlantic artist, he made over fifty such crossings. Significantly, his return visits in 1892 and 1893 were to curate an art division of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which featured the two largest paintings in this gallery. 

A technically-superb painter by virtue of his rigorous academic training, Marr’s brilliant craftsmanship, exquisite modeling, and interesting use of side-and back-lighting are hallmarks of his work. Over the course of his long career, he worked in Realist, Impressionist, and Symbolist styles, but his portraits from any era are exemplary for their rare ability to capture personality and character.

Marr’s stellar artistic accomplishment earned him high honors on two continents during his career. Knighted by both Germany and Italy in recognition of his work, he was awarded the title “von” in 1909, and on one of his last visits to Wisconsin in 1929 he accepted an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.