You could easily mistake a painting by Austrian artist Julius Paul Junghanns (1876-1958) for a much older work, perhaps something by the Barbizon realists of the mid-19th century. But Junghann’s work is still historical, but painted more recently. Like his predecessors in the French Barbizon School, such as Jules DuprÃ© (1811-1889) and Jean-FranÃ§ois Millet (1814-1875), he emphasized the pastoral: life in the rural agricultural villages of Europe, where shepherds gather their flocks, peasants tend to the cattle penned up in weathered barns and powerful draft horses pulling heavy plows through the ground.
Although much of it was painted in the post-industrial world of the 20th century, Junghann’s work is reminiscent of a different time.
“In its post-impressionist style, the movement still comes from the Barbizon school as it relates to a judgment against industrialization,” says Scott Gordon, owner of KSG Fine Art Gallery. “I think it’s great that he also partly uses the old masters.”
Exhibition of the KSG No time for DÃ¼sseldorf, which revolves around the work of Junghanns, is a rare US exhibition by the artist. Junghanns was an academic painter who studied in Munich with the German painter Heinrich Johann von ZÃ¼gel (1850-1941). And at the suggestion of ZÃ¼gel, at the age of 28, he became head of animal and open-air painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in DÃ¼sseldorf and remained loyal to the institution for over 40 years. The irony is that while he spent so much time in DÃ¼sseldorf, it was never a preferred topic.
Junghanns was better known for paintings showing animals on the farm, often horses and cattle. And he gives his compositions symbolic meaning through the associations between his animal subjects and their human counterparts.
In undated oil on canvas Summer on the pasture (farmer’s wife with cow), for example, some of the animal’s posture is reflected in the female subject’s posture, and vice versa. The head of the woman in the apron, basket in hand, is tilted slightly, tilted downward, so that it mimics the head of the cow grazing next to her. But in addition to their posture, their posture should also be considered.
“If you look at the faces of the characters, the solid shape, they’re really grounded,” says Gordon. âYou are in communication. Here is communion. “
You see this community in even more young Shepherd with Montbeliarde calf (1934), in which a young shepherd rests under a tree next to a standing calf whose legs are slightly spread, as is typical for young cattle. In the background, on a meadow strewn with cows, are the houses of a nearby village. Man and calf are looking in the same direction, their gaze is focused on something outside the picture frame. By depicting the heavy-lidded calf with its young eyes and the man’s face half shadowed by the brim of his hat, he creates a connection. The two figures are in a sense one.
Junghanns was an animalier, an artist who dedicated himself to the realistic depiction of animals. So it may not be surprising that the faces of his human figures are often less conscious and sometimes almost faceless. You can feel that the animals were what he wanted to bring closer to the viewer and to which he showed the greatest awe.
What should be emphasized in Junghanns’ style of painting is his masterly brushwork, which skillfully weaves an abundance of colors into the fur of an animal and at the same time creates the impression of a single dominant color tone. In the case of the MontbÃ©liarde, a special kind of pied dairy cow, the color is predominantly white or white tones, speckled here and there with reddish-brown spots. But there are also hints of pale green and blue.
âThe old masters painted a cow like that,â says Gordon. âIt is obviously the young man’s most precious possession. For a village that raises calves like this, it is the livelihood. It’s their bread and butter. It is their worth, all their material wealth. “
Junghanns was adept at reproducing muscles through variations in color tones. He was a keen observer of animals, regardless of whether they were in motion, as in the undated oil painting Homecoming in the evening light (Quadriga), or at rest, as in Dapple Horse in his stable (also undated), watercolor and gouache on paper, which was probably made as a study.
“There’s so much texture,” says Gordon about Apple mold. “It’s crazy for a watercolor.”
An outstanding addition to the exhibition, however, is a work by Junghanns’ protÃ©gÃ© Georg Wolf (1882-1962) called Standing horse in the pasture (1911). As an oil on canvas, this medium-sized painting is remarkably powerful. The draft horse, big and stoic, stands in front of an autumnal backdrop. But until you step back far enough, you don’t get a full sense of what the artist wanted to achieve with the work. This is more than just a reproduction of an old horse, it is a neat example painted by someone who has a keen sense for their posture.
âThat was a horse that was just being brushed,â says Gordon. âYou get this silkiness. You get the play of light on your fur and you can see the sheen. It’s not about âWow, these are really cool animalsâ, but about their value: spiritually, economically, historically. That’s what Wolf really tried to put together. “
And in this sense Wolf followed Junghanns’ example.
âThe symbiotic relationship between humans and animals was very important to this school, starting with von ZÃ¼gel. Wolf completed his studies at the animal painting school von ZÃ¼gel. “
Collectors who come to Santa Fe for the abundance of Western art, where the horse still rules, will appreciate these pieces of farm life from half the world, even if they have never heard of Junghanns.
“I think if it wasn’t for the Third Reich, he would probably be a lot more famous,” says Gordon. âBut his timing wasn’t good. The 1920s to 1950s weren’t the best time to be a German painter. “
This may be particularly true with regard to the American art market, which is suspicious of German and Austrian artists who had ties to the National Socialist Party during World War II. But Junghanns’ gained some notoriety in Nazi Europe. His work was disseminated by members of the Third Reich, who praised its traditional style and idyllic depictions. Although he regularly exhibited National Socialist art at the Great German Art Exhibition, he later regretted this and never joined the NSDAP. But it is likely that the association has been damaging its reputation to this day.
âHe was known all over the world,â says Gordon. “And then it just fell away.”