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Franz Xaver Winterhalter (20 April 1805 – 8 July 1873) was a German painter and lithographer, known for his portraits of royalty in the mid-nineteenth century. His name has become associated with fashionable court portraiture. Among his best known works are Empress Eugénie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting (1855) and the portraits he made of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1865).
Winterhalter came into his own as a portrait painter during the second Empire and he painted his best work during the last two decades of his life. He matched his style to the luxury and relaxed atmosphere of the age, its hedonism and gaiety. His female sitters of the 1850s and 1860s inhabit a different physiological climate from those he painted earlier; they are not reticent and reserved. His male sitters inspired few original or memorable compositions.
Winterhalter never received high praise for his work from serious critics, being constantly accused of superficiality and affectation in pursue of popularity. However, he was highly appreciated by his aristocratic patrons. The royal families of England, France, Spain, Russia, Portugal, Mexico and Belgium all commissioned him to paint portraits. His monumental canvases established a substantial popular reputation, and lithographic copies of the portraits helped to spread his fame.
Winterhalter's portraits were prized for their subtle intimacy; the nature of his appeal is not difficult to explain. He created the image his sitters wished or needed to project to their subjects. He was not only skilled at posing his sitters to create almost theatrical compositions, but also was a virtuoso in the art of conveying the texture of fabrics, furs and jewellery, to which he paid no less attention than to the face. He painted very rapidly and very fluently, designing most of his compositions directly in the canvas. His portraits are elegant, refined, life-like, and pleasantly idealized.
Artists Category
Ancient world
Middle Ages
Baroque and Rococo
19th century
20th century
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