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February 21, 2009

Stuck on Evil

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

That "Stuck" in the title is actually pronounced something like "ztook" or "shtook" (these might work if you're an English speaker). It's the last name of noted Munich artist Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) who acquired the "von" in 1905.

I recently posted about a Munich Secession show now playing in Seattle. Therein, I threatened to post articles about some of the artists whose paintings I viewed, and now I'm about to make good on it.

As you can see, first up is Franz von Stuck, one of the key players in the Secession. Links with information about him are here and here. The Wikipedia link notes that Stuck, besides rattling Establishment cages, was a commercial artist, portrait painter and art teacher. Among those studying under him were better-known (than Stuck, these days) artists Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers.

The painting that launched Stuck into fame and a fairly good fortune in Munich was the painting shown below:

Sin - 1893

It's murky looking (a trait of many Munich paintings of that day), though the temptress (Eve?) is easy to spot. You might have to pay a bit more attention to make out the serpent. Needless to say, in 1893 Catholic Munich, the painting caused a sensation. But not so much of a sensation that Stuck was sent packing; as I noted, it was a career-maker. It seems that he painted about a dozen versions of it over the years, or so says the exhibit catalog. One is in the Villa Stuck and another is in Seattle's Frye Art Museum collection, where it seems to be almost always on view.


Franz Stuck and His Wife in His Studio - 1902

Guardian of Paradise - 1889

Lucifer - 1889-90

Pallas Athena - 1898
This was painted the same year as Gustav Klimt's painting of the same title.

Tulla Durieux as Circe - c.1913
Along with Edgar Degas, Alphonse Mucha and some other painters of his era, Stuck made use of photography when painting. The painting of Duriex is a very close copy of a reference photo to be found on page 40 of the catalog for a 2006 exhibit in Trent, Italy. (Title: Franz von Stuck: Lucifero moderno; text entirely in Italian.)

Spring Love - 1917
In the last decade of his career, Stuck was painting in a mural style -- outlines and flatter modeling. There are two example in the Frye that I'm aware of, and neither is mural size, however.

Villa Stuck exterior

Villa Stuck interior

More images of Stuck's work can be found here. The Frye has several of his paintings, but I'm not sure if any other American museum has even that many. The best place for the "Stuck experience" is the Villa Stuck itself. I was there three years ago and found it worth the mile or so walk from the vicinity of Munich's subway system.

I'm not sure that Stuck was a great painter; but I do find him to be a fascinating one.



posted by Donald at February 21, 2009


You mention the flatter modeling in Spring Love, which is far and away, to my eye at least, the most satisfying of the examples of Stuck's work that you show. I wonder, did Stuck do any actual modeling or carving? I ask because Stuck was contemporary with a revival of low relief sculpture in Germany. The sculptor, Hans Von Marees, specialized in low relief frontal view figures (as opposed to walk around modeled views) carved directly out of stone. Stuck, in Spring Love, and Von Marees in almost all his work also clearly reference Greek ideals of beauty, which Germans were absolutely gaga over in the late 19th century.
Anyhow, I much prefer Stuck when he gets out of his demonic decadent mode and concentrates on making a painting-painting as opposed to a fin-de-siecle-literary-painting.

Posted by: ricpic on February 21, 2009 2:54 PM

Just googled Von Marees. He was a significant painter as well as a sculptor. But his dates, 1830's to late 1880's, preceded Von Stuck. Still, I would sat there was a considerable influence. Repeating myself here but the flattened frieze-like quality of Spring Love and in much of Von Marees' work is Greek derivative.

Posted by: ricpic on February 21, 2009 3:08 PM

ricpic -- Stuck did do some sculpting. The one example in that Italian catalog mentioned in the post was an in-the-round variety. I haven't been able to research Stuck well enough to get info on his influences. (There doesn't seem to be much written about him in English, and I last seriously studied German in 1965 in order to pass a grad school language exam. In those days, snot-nosed Ph.D.'s were supposed to know a language or two besides English.)

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 21, 2009 4:49 PM

It must be a bad day to look at paintings. Pupu finds Stuck's work creepy.

Posted by: Pupu on February 21, 2009 6:30 PM

Fun to learn about Stuck, who I'd been only dimly aware of before. I sort of like the ponderous literary-cheesecake quality of some of his work, but that's probably a sign of my bad taste. That house of his looks like something pretty amazing. Was it fun to visit as a building?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 22, 2009 2:00 AM

Not to be snarky, but I believe Klimt wins the Pallas Athena portrait contest

Posted by: Reid Farmer on February 23, 2009 5:23 PM

Nice post, Donald

Posted by: yahmdallah on February 24, 2009 2:27 PM

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