“Portrait of Ludwig Simon” by Carl Philipp Fohr – a history of one drawing
The masterly drawing by a notable Nazarene painter Carl Philipp Fohr was transferred, a few years after its execution, to Silesia, where the eyes of at least five generations of painters and collectors delighted in looking at it.
The history of this sketch can be easily traced back, from its creation date to the present day, which doesn’t frequently occur in case of Silesian artworks of the 19th century. Cogitations on its fate, which can clearly demonstrate the activity of Wroclaw’s collectors’ milieu, provide opportunity to honor the memory of a few forgotten collectors’ figures.
The first owner of Fohr’s drawing was Carl Herrmann (1791-1845), a painter born in Opole (Oppeln in German). During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, Herrmann had received a scholarship to Rome, where he arrived in October 1817 and continued there three years of studying. Herrmann was spending his time, surrounded by notable German artists whose meeting place was Café Greco (among them were mostly Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Peter Cornelius, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Joseph Anton Koch). Herrmann and Carl Philipp Fohr, who died precociously, were close friends. During his sojourn in Rome, Herrmann was not only accomplishing his painting technique (which mainly demonstrates a portrait sketch of pope Pius VII, copied in copperplate technique afterwards), but was also collecting drawings by notable artists, which surely served him as sources of inspiration after his return. The painter’s property included mainly a sketch by Fohr which is presently pride of the Detroit Institute of Arts. It depicts the bust of the painter’s friend, a student of theology Ludwig Simon. The young man is wearing a historical garment of the students’ sodality “Teutonia”; in the background a part of the Heidelberg castle can be seen. After Fohr’s precocious death Herrmann wrote on the drawing’s reverse: “Image of a Spanish student from Heidelberg. A drawing by my dear friend Carl Fohr, who had drowned in the Tiber’s depth, close to Ponte Molle, on St. Peter’s Day 1818” (Simon was born in the Spanish town of Cadiz). Ernst Schreyer, Herrmann’s first monographist, presumes, the painter had acquired Fohr’s works on auction after the painter’s death. As is well known, Herrmann had brought from Rome, along with the foregoing sketch, a few other drawings by the same artist. Apart from them, the painter’s collection also housed numerous compositions by Gustav Heinrich Naeke, a painter from Dresden, which were transferred to the Wroclaw’s collection of a notable museum diligent Erwin Hintze.
Herrmann’s collection had been primarily housed in the painter’s family town, from 1826 in Wroclaw, where the painter moved with his family. After the painter’s death his collection was probably dispersed. The drawing by Fohr, depicting the student Simon was overtaken by Raphael Schall (1819-1859), a painter born in Wroclaw. Among Schalls’ commissioners was also a notable collector of artworks – Bishop Heinrich Förster. However, lack of information on the painter’s activity as art collector, makes it difficult to answer, whether Förster’s activity could have inspired the latter. The undoubtedly high quality drawing by Fohr was appreciated by Schall, who also tried his talent as a portrait painter (which can be mainly demonstrated by his numerous compositions presented at the monographic exhibition in Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, in 1935).
The following owner of the drawing was the Wroclaw’s city landscape painter Adelbert Woelfl (1823-1896), who also was an enthusiastic art collector. Along with the sketch by Fohr he owned mainly works by Schall and compositions by Johann Heinrich Christian König and by his pupil Amand Augustin Zausig. The value of Woelfl’s collection, after the painter’s death, was estimated at 15000 DM. Some works that had formerly been housed by Woelfl, were thereafter overtaken by notable Wroclaw’s art collectors: Mr. and Mrs. Neisser (Toni Neisser had acquired on auction, mainly two watercolor paintings by Fohr, depicting landscapes from the Subiaco surroundings that had formerly belonged to Carl Herrmann), by the merchant Wilhelm Perlhöfter as well as by the jurist Eduard Feige. The drawing, presently housed in Detroit, had been purchased by the latter, on auction of Woelfl’s heritage. The collection formed in his flat in the Oranienstraße 30 (presently ul. Wandy) was numerous, its pride were mainly drawings by Carl Herrmann which were copies of works by Italian old masters, but also works by Schall and Zausig; some of them had formerly belonged to Woelfl. The last owner of the drawing depicting Simon, was the Wroclaw’s museum diligent Ernst Schreyer. However, because of his Jewish origin, the latter was forced to leave Germany, after the Nazis had overtaken the rule in 1933. Despite the coercive exile Schreyer continued his studies on Silesian art. He settled definitely in Detroit and in 1950 he sold the valuable sketch by Fohr, which had adorned for many years, several private collections in Wroclaw, to the museum in Detroit.
Hanna Grisebach, Adelbert Wölfl [in:] Schlesische Lebensbilder, Vol. 4, Breslau 1931, pp. 363-373
Ernst Scheyer, Aus Carl Fohrs künstlerischer Hinterlassenschaft. Zu zwei unbekannten Arbeiten des Künstlers aus schlesischem Besitz, in: Neue Heidelberger Jahrbücher, N. F. (1932), pp. 82-90
Ernst Scheyer, Schlesisiche Malerei der Bidermeierzeit, Frankfurt am Main 1965
Karl Philipp Fohr (1795-1818), red. Joachim Ziehmake, Frankfurt am Main 1968
For all information that helped me in writing this issue, I render my thanks to Dr. Joanna Lubos-Kozieł and to Dr. Piotr Łukaszewicz.