Friday, January 16, 2009

The Flagellants...Carl Von Marr und Der Fuhrer

Carl Marr was a Wisconsin boy. He was born in 1858 in a small house on Knapp Street in Milwaukee to artist parents. He studied painting under the tutelage of Heinrich Vianden, a painter of landscapes (with more than a touch of Bob Ross in him) who would become Wisconsin's first and probably most influential painting teacher. At 17, Marr moved to Germany. He eventually found himself in Munich, at the time a very modern and vibrant city. Success followed him. In 1893 he became a professor and later, director of Munich's famed Royal Academy. In doing so, and unknown to him at the time of his accepting the position, he had to relinquish his US citizenship. By then, he was already world famous. His epic painting "The Flagellants" was the late 19th century equivalent of a major blockbuster film. In the new century, the awards and achievements kept piling up....
1 - In 1909, at the height of his international fame, Kaiser Wilhelm himself bestowed to Marr the Order of the Red Eagle Third Class. With this honor came the placing of the prefix "von" before his name.

2 - In 1912, after recieving the Commendatore Cross of the Royal Order by King Victor Emanuel of Italy and the Order of St. Michael Second Class from Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, he became Baron Carl Von Marr.

3- In 1916, he married into The Messerschmitt family. (That's like marrying a Pabst, a Miller, a Blatz, a Davidson an Allis, a Chalmers, a Kimberly and a Clark combined......and then getting lifetime Packer tickets.)

4 - In 1917, he recieved the title "Geheimer Hofrat" - Privy Councilor and advisor to the Bavarian government. He was now "Baron Carl Von Marr Geheimer Hofrat zum Bavaria"....or something like that.

5 - Finally,and I almost forgot to mention, He was rumored to be Adolf Hitlers favorite painter. Hitler, a devoted fan of flagellation, admired Von Marr so much that he kept a portrait of him. Trouble was, Von Marr hated Hitler and the Nazis. He worked during the early 1930's to get Jewish painters to safe places out of Germany.

After a lifetime of achievement as both a painter and a teacher, he recieved an award that mattered more to him than any other of the gold medals or prestigious titles. In 1929, Carl Marr came home to Wisconsin to recieve an honorary degree from The University of Wisconsin. It would be his final visit to his homeland. In 1936 he died in Munich and was buried there. Lucky for us, The Flagellants and much of his work is the property of the City of Milwaukee and is on permanent display at The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. If you haven't seen Marr's magnum opus in person, I urge you to go. It's one big painting.

(I would like to inject to the usual e-mail writers, all two of you, who constantly (and politely)chide me for calling The University of Wisconsin "The University of Wisconsin" and not "The University of Wisconsin - Madison". I'm sorry, but there is only one University of Wisconsin and it's not, as much as I like those schools,it's not Eau Claire or GB or Oshkosh or LaCrosse or Menasha or whatever else. OK? ok.)

"I have battled against this modern craze, the jazz expressions in the field of art, but I have not succeeded in stemming it or securing a return to true details. I adhere to the old school of art with all that is implied in the same. I cannot reconcile myself to the present-day trend". Carl Von Marr on modernism.


Squeezebox said...

I had to go see that that painting every year in my childhood (I'm from West Bend). It used to scare the Bejesus out of me, but now it's just amazing.

Anonymous said...

I think it's cool that the greatest painting to come from the hands of a wisconsinite is called the flagellants. awesome.

Anonymous said...

Damn right. The UW is in Madison. The other UWSs are fine, but need their surnames. Go Bucky!

Anonymous said...

I had two great art teachers from Silver Brook Middle School in West Bend during the late 70's We too, went to the "West Bend Art Museum" yearly to view the collections and the Von Marr Archive.

Moving to a small rural Wisconsin town was a difficult adjustment for a little kid originally from New Jersey. I spent a lot of time at the museum...... a lot!

I was so amazed that this small town had such a fantastic museum.

The museum is a underrated community. It's a true gem.

tommcmahon said...

But don't go to West Bend right now, as the painting has been lent to an art museum in Munich for a couple of years. More here.

Anonymous said...

Just came from the "new" Wisconsin Museum of Art in West Bend. Awesome. And make me happy and proud, once again to be a Wisconsinite. Von Marr's paintings were worth seeing over and over, if only I lived in West Bend. I of course was overwhelmed by his most famous, the incredible, "The Flagellants." But the painting I'd most like to own is "Summer Afternoon," an absolutely magnificent painting of light and shadow and realism.
While Von Marr was not certainly an Impressionist by definition, his classically trained salon style with tremendous attention to detail glows with light and color. His is an exhibit not to be missed.