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Hoesslin, George von

The Villa Spinola

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George von Hoesslin

1851 Budapest – 1923 Munich

George von Hoesslin came from an aristocratic Augsburg background. He grew up in the United States, where he trained as a merchant. However he moved back to Germany in 1871 to enroll at the Academy of Art in Munich. Rapidly disillusioned with the teaching methods of the Academy, he broke off his studies, determined to further his skills independently. He visited Italy for the first time in 1875.

Munich was to remain his permanent base – it was here that he would produce most of his finished paintings. Over the following forty years he made extended annual trips to Italy. He rented a studio in Rome which he kept on until 1911. The city was to provide an important source of artistic stimuli. He also developed an increasing interest in landscape. He travelled widely throughout Italy, often on lengthy study trips by bicycle. Landscape remained his chief interest throughout his artistic career.

Hoesslin’s lifelong output of history paintings, allegorical subjects and portraits provided him with a regular source of income and secured public recognition of his art at major exhibitions. However his real talents lay in landscape painting. He produced a large body of studies sur le motif which served as the basis for monumental landscapes worked up later in the studio. Many of these compositions are devoid of figures. Titles like The Rock of Medusa and Homeric Coastline, with their references to classical literature, underline his intention not to achieve topographical accuracy but to conjure up mysterious Böcklinesque associations with the myths and legends of antiquity. Even in a non-imaginary or real landscape like the View of the Villa Spinola in the Bay of Genoa topographical accuracy is subordinated to a contemplative, almost poetic mood of melancholy.

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