German artist Wilhelm Gottfried Bauer captured the refined elegance of the growing middle classes in his homeland during the first half of the 19th century.
Bauer began his artistic career with an education in two of Germany’s finest art schools, the Dresden Art Academy and the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. Although he did not complete his studies at Dresden, he must certainly have had a talent which got him through the doors and into the hallowed halls of the Munich school.
Stepping out into his career, Bauer must have noticed the burgeoning trade in portrait painting.
Social and political developments in Europe in the early 19th century saw a growing market for portraits. Peace following the Napoleonic wars led to a period known as the Biedermeier era. Developments in industry were leading to a growing middle-class with enough money and power to patronise painters to craft their portraits. With no more war on the horizon, society could focus on such matters and indeed celebrate a domestic, peaceful idyll.
Bauer, therefore, was fulfilling a need. After completing his studies, he moved to Leipzig, which was developing greatly during this period. Here, he surely found many a client for his work. His portraits that survive depict people of this finer class, in all their fashion and foppery. His sitters stare with a seriousness of expression that perhaps places weight on the efforts they had made to garner themselves wealth and prestige. Bauer uses effusive colouring to highlight the richness of the fabrics they wear. A detailed hand picks out the broderie on expensive lace, delicate jewels lay elegantly against a lady’s decolletage.
Bauer also painted people of significance such as Leipzig banker Gottfried Winckler (1731-1795) for paintings which would hang in public buildings such as the chamber of commerce. Not only were his portraits a status of wealth but they were also a symbol of power.
It's also recorded that Bauer made copies of other artists’ works during his career. Documenters also record Bauer as hard of hearing and also perhaps possessing a learning disability.
By the time of his death in 1855, portrait painting was beginning to be dominated by the newly invented photography, and Bauer’s vocation was perhaps not as lucrative as it once had been. Bauer had possessed prosperous timing in pursuing what was once a popular declaration of status as his career.
Born in Frohburg, Germany.
Began studying at the Dresden Art Academy.
Began studying at the Royal Academy of Arts, Munich.
Married Henriette Wilhelmine Schweiger.
Died in Leipzig, Germany.