With All the Senses

Theodor von Hörmann (1840–1895)
Springtime Garden near Vienna, ca. 1886
Oil on Canvas
35.7 x 59 cm
Estimated price: 35,000 – 70,000 €

Painting is seldom something just for the eyes; after all, the psychology of colours and things directly associated therewith can also address all the other human senses, as well. And so it is with this springtime picture by Theodor von Hörmann, where the bright green evokes the smell of newly awakened plants and grasses, while the pink automatically smells like sweet flowers and young blossoms. And the whole time—since it’s what we’d expect, here—one hears the tweeting of birds and the humming of nature coming back to life.


Mute Humans

But the human figures—they stand motionless, silent, like they always do in works by Hörmann, who was not a narrator but a portrayer of states of being. These figures are even somewhat reminiscent of contemporary portrait photographs, with their facial expressions always so serious and unnaturally tense. To Hörmann, human beings were part of nature, and he executed his works in harmony with nature’s laws. He was concerned neither with social criticism nor with transcendence; what interested him was human existence, complete with its laws and its veracity.

Modelling with Light

All over Europe, in the newly revived genre of landscape painting, the sun was being embraced as a fascinating partner. How must such light have been for a modeller—and how difficult must it have been to abandon the baroque chiaroscuro in favour of colours’ diverse shadings and transitions in the sunlight? And indeed, how different things seem when the light comes from behind, dazzling the observer and modelling every contour that much more clearly! It seems almost as if Hörmann, who had just retired from the military, were expressing his newfound freedom in this wonderful quotation of nature.


This painting will go up for bidding in the auction “19th-Century Paintings” on 24 April 2018 at Auktionshaus im Kinsky.

Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, Auktionshaus im Kinsky