Focusing on people

Wilhelm Leibl founded modern figure painting and painted people unadorned, but "clearly visible", thus placing them at the focal point of his work. The Albertina dedicates an impressive exhibition to the Realist.

Influenced by Manet, sponsored by Courbet and appreciated by van Gogh: Wilhelm Leibl (1844–1900) was already a highly valued representative of Realism in Europe during his lifetime. His career began when, at just 25 years of age, he met Gustave Courbet at the 1869 International Exhibition in Munich. Courbet recognized Leibl's talent and invited him to Paris. Just one year later, the Academy student received his first gold medal at the "Salon de Paris", a highly decorated art exhibition at this time. Yet Leibl increasingly withdrew from city life, headed for the country, and dedicated himself mainly to the Bavarian rural population in his works from 1873. Unjustly and often mistakenly described as a "painter of farmers", Leibl found his inspiration and creative power here.

Leibl's strength was that he depicted people as they are. For him, it wasn't about beauty. Much more important to him was that his model was "clearly visible" – for him, it was about the unadorned reproduction of reality. In turn, it was this realism in which he justified his very own claim to reality and found a unique, modern style of figure painting. This wasn't always met with goodwill in the beginning. Yet by regularly participating in international exhibitions (Vienna, Berlin, Zürich, New York), he was perceived – and ultimately also celebrated – as being one of the most important representatives of Realism. His artistic attitude, in innovation, self-criticism as well as destruction, which were the driving forces, shaped and influenced following generations of artists down to the present day. The Albertina is now dedicating its own show to the great Realist ("Gut sehen ist alles!" - "Seeing clearly is everything!").

Wilhelm Leibl – Gut sehen ist alles! - January 31 – May 10, 2020


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