Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (Vienna, 1793 – Hinterbrühl, 1865) was an important Austrian portrait, genre and landscape painter of the Biedermeier period, 1814-1848. Waldmüller was particularly admired for his landscape, which exemplify his belief that art should be based on a close study of nature. Being an advocate of natural observation and plein-air painting, as well as a critic of academic painting, Waldmüller is regarded as being far ahead of his time.

Ferdinand Waldmuller began his art studies at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1807 under Hubert Maurer. After leaving the Academy in 1811, Waldmüller studied portraiture in Presburg, Hungary, and then taught drawing to the children of Count Gyulay in Croatia. In 1813 he returned to Vienna to study portraiture at the Academy. He married the singer Katharina Weidner in 1814, and consequently worked as a scenery designer and portrait painter at his wife's various engagements in Baden, Bruenn and Prague. After his return to Vienna in 1817, Waldmuller spent many hours copying Old Master paintings in Viennese collections.

In 1819, Waldmuller became a professor at the Academy, and in 1820 visited Dresden where he copied Jacob Van Ruisdael (1628-1682) and Antonio Correggio (1494-1534), and then traveled to Leipsig where he had great success with his portraits. By the time he visited Italy in 1825 Waldmuller had a flourishing portrait practice and received royal patronage with his portrait of Franz I (1827 ; Vienna, Historisches Mus.).

By now Waldmuller was gaining a reputation as the foremost landscape and genre painter in Austria. Mainly interested in the life of peasants, Waldmuller chose the scenes for his landscapes without any idealization or pretense. He elevated genre-painting to a new dimension by adding historical and religious elements without shying away from social criticism. In addition to being an observer and commentator on modern life, Waldmüller praised the health-giving qualities of rural life, and the moral virtues of family.

In 1829, he became the Curator of the Academy, and by 1835, received the title of Academic Council. In the late 1830s, because of his outspoken criticism of the Academy’s teaching methods and their permanent collection, Waldmüller fell from favor with the Vienna art establishment. As a result, he was demoted from his post as professor of painting, suspended and forced into early retirement. Despite this setback, Waldmüller remained a highly successful and sought-after artist.

In 1851, he married his second wife, 25-year-old Anna Bayer. He participated in various exhibitions, such as the world exhibition in Paris and the International Exhibition in London. In 1856, during a stay in London, he sold 31 pictures to the royal household and court. By the 1860s, he was “rehabilitated” and accepted back into the formal art community and knighted before his death in 1865.

Works by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller are in the following museums: The Leopold Museum, Vienna; Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna; The Albertina, Vienna ; Neue Galerie, Graz, Austria; Residenzgalerie Salzburg, Austria; Neue Pinakothek, Munich ; National Museum, Kassel, Germany ; Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid ; The Royal Collection, London; Louvre Museum, Paris; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Cleveland Museum of Art.

Source: Sources: Belvedere.at German Wikipedia; Galereie Wienpolter; arts.jrank.org; Helen Webberly’s Blog; Art and Architecture, Encyclopedia of Austria.

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