Numerous surveys in Germany note that Carl Spitzweg’s Poor Poet is clearly his most popular and well-known painting. The Grohmann Museum collection includes an oil study as well as the first of three final versions of the famous painting. When Spitzweg submitted the then-new painting to the art association of Munich for an exhibition in 1837, it was not accepted, as it did not comply with conventional notions of art. But Spitzweg’s style of genre painting eventually took hold as he became perhaps the most beloved painter of the Biedermeier period in mid-19th century Germany.
In his attic studio apartment, the poet lies on a thin mattress with an umbrella over his head to combat his leaky roof. His writing is interrupted by a flea or louse, which he pinches between the fingers of his right hand. Spitzweg’s poet is the quintessential starving artist, as he has resorted to burning his manuscripts for heat.