Portrait of Mayor Klein

Wilhelm Leiblaround 1871

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Leibl, a pupil of Piloty’s, painted this early portrait of his brother’s father-inlaw shortly after his return from Paris. In its rejection of idealism and with its free brush strokes, it is clearly a reaction to the work of Courbet. As the view er becomes aware of the apparent fragmentation of the background through short, thick, slightly uneven brushstrokes — mostly calm diagonals leading downwards, feeling their way to the figure — the compositional simplicity and rig or of the solid frontal view takes on an aspect of contained vitality that does not define at first, but which comes to life as the picture is viewed. Not understood by Leibl’s contemporaries and caught in critical cross-fire because of its orientation towards French painting at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, Leibl’s early work only received recognition in the early twentieth century when it was seen, in the context of Impressionism, as the guiding light for a new epoch.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Portrait of Mayor Klein
  • Creator: Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl
  • Date Created: around 1871
  • Physical Dimensions: w67.0 x h87.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 928
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andres Kilger
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Acquired 1906
  • Artist biography: Wilhelm Leibl was a German realist artist who mainly painted portraits and scenes of peasant life. In 1861 he started his artistic training with Hermann Becker. Three years later he entered the Munich Academy where he studied with Carl Theodor von Piloty among others. In 1869 he established a group studio with Johann Sperl, Theodor Alt and Rudolph Hirth du Frênes. In the same year he left for Paris where he spent a couple of months and sought contact with Édouard Manet. His artworks belie the influence of Hans Holbein’s eye for realistic detail. Leibl painted without making preparatory studies and worked directly with colours. 'Three Woman in Church' (1882) is considered his best known work.
  • Artist Place of Death: Würzburg, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Cologne, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1844-10-23/1900-12-04