Carl von Marr
Milwaukee 1858 — 1936 Munich
Von Marr reversed custom and moved from the New World to the Old, leaving his native Milwaukee for Germany. He studied with leading Milwaukee artist Henry Vianden before traveling to Weimar and attending the Royal Academy there before continuing on to Berlin and then Munich. He made a great success in both worlds, culminating in his appointment to director of the Royal Academy in Munich and honored with knighthood in three European countries. His acclaim in the United States includes first prize at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 for his magnum opus the Flagellants, a highlight of MOWA’s collection.
Carl Von Marr’s Summer Afternoon, perhaps the most popular painting in the Museum of Wisconsin Art, depicts some of life’s greatest pleasures: glorious weather, food and leisure, and the company of family and friends. Within the quiet, shaded recesses of a back garden, women and children gather to escape the heat of the summer sun under a verdant canopy of trees. Women of all ages enjoy tea and conversation, while a nanny and her charges congregate nearby. A toddler entranced by a brood of chickens in the foreground underscores the painting’s quotidian subject. Soft, dappled sunlight illuminates this slice of life in Munich.
Carl von Marr was not the most famous artist whose work was on view at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (commonly known as the Chicago World’s Fair), but his painting the Flagellants quickly became one of the most popular with visitors. Von Marr took four years to complete the painting, determined that it would establish his reputation as an artist. Although by the late 1880s, large-scale history paintings were becoming a rarity, he did not waver in his conviction that his would be a “once seen, never forgotten” painting.
A Wistful Moment
Carl von Marr’s A Wistful Moment is one of his most intriguing portraits with richly layered references and allusions. In the left half of the canvas, a fashionable young lady in a white dress slouches at the end of a settee draped with white and green fabrics. She absentmindedly plays with a black and white kitten. Behind her is a Japanese screen. The trappings suggest wealth, yet the subject is remarkably casual in her demeanor.