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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 4 Nov. 2021–5 Jan. 2022

Andreas Lach and the Vienna Floral Painting

Revelations, November 2021

Andreas Lach (Eisgrub/Lednice, 1817 – Vienna, 1882) was a student at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts between 1837 and 1839. He studied under Thomas Ender (1793–1875) and Joseph Mössmer (1780–1845), who both taught landscape painting, and Sebastian Wegmayr (1776–1857), a professor specializing in floral still lifes. When the twenty-year-old Andreas Lach came to Vienna, the city’s floral painting was in full bloom. Biedermeier floral still lifes of the Vienna School were a European phenomenon of their time and marked the revival of the Golden Age of Dutch painting and of influential 17th- and 18th-century masters. The floral genre owes its re-emergence to joint venture between the class on floral painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory.

Floral painting played a very different role in the two halves of the 19thcentury. In the first half, its significance was so great it was equal to the term Biedermeier. Biedermeier floral painting was created out of love of nature among all strata of society, including the imperial family, and, of course, encompassed both native and exotic flowers. The Enlightenment showed intense interest in foreign lands, their inhabitants, flora and fauna. This greatly influenced botany and the flourishing of botanical illustration around 1800. Important contributions were made by botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727–1817), who was summoned to Vienna from the Netherlands. This was a time of botanical and private gardens kept by wealthy plant lovers and of greenhouses where fashionable exotic flowers grew. Members of the imperial family, aristocracy and the bourgeoisie became devoted amateur botanists. The refuge of countless private gardens on the outskirts of Vienna was greatly prized, influencing the general spirit and fashion. People purchased botanical publications, floral still lifes and other objects, such as the exquisite products of the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory.

This leads us to a remarkable painter, Johann Baptist Drechsler (1756–1811), who in 1787 became the director of the drawing school and the Imperial-Royal Porcelain Manufactory. Drechsler was inspired by Old Masters, especially Jan van Huysum (1682–1749) and Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750). His art showed a masterful interpretation, not just in the imitation of floral motifs, but especially in the use of colour and lights in the spirit of the new realism.

In 1807, J. B. Drechsler established a class on floral still lifes at the Academy of Fine Arts. The professor joined the porcelain manufactory and the Academy in a successful venture. The motif, now independent, immediately influenced the stylistic development of floral still lifes. At this stage, the scientific study of plants and the naturalistic depiction of flowers began to overlap, both at the Academy and at the Manufactory. Events of 1848 changed everything and in the second half of the century the public interest shifted to other art forms, styles and motifs. The subject was withdrawn from the Academy curriculum in 1850.

Andreas Lach, who lived and worked in mid-century Vienna, did very well in these turbulent times. His painting teacher passed onto him modified and rejuvenated motifs that drew inspiration from the past and quickly became part of modern trends. In the capital, Lach diligently exhibited his still lifes, which the critics saw as realistic, fresh and innovative. Lach liked to place his floral motifs on mountain ridges and above dangerous overhangs in the Alpine landscape; after 1850, he specialized in still lifes on forest floor, where he placed bouquets of solely garden flowers.

Jassmina Marijan

4 November 2021–5 January 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana