Austrian artist Heinrich Hollpein is predominantly known for producing exquisite naturalistic portraits in oil. Born in Vienna, he was trained initially by his father before receiving a formal education via the Academy of Fine Arts. To gain further experience, he travelled to Germany, Russia, Poland, Italy and Ukraine.
Hollpein was the step-nephew of the eminent composer, Franz Schubert, so one could say that artistry was rooted in his DNA. His father, Leopold, was an engraver and encouraged him during his formative years. Before long, the Academy beckoned and the young artist was thrust into an environment focused on old master perfection, life drawing, and developing technical prowess.
At the age of 20, he began exhibiting portraiture - carefully crafted works rendered with precision and naturalistic colouring. And to hone his skills further, he then travelled to Germany, Poland and Russia. Following a stint in St Petersburg, Hollpein moved to Kyiv, Ukraine, and it’s here that his career gathered traction. His fine and highly decorous style becoming popular with nobles and numerous leading minds.
Hollpein’s portraits are successful on two fronts - they capture a truthful likeness with remarkable clarity while also conveying a sense of spirit, albeit in a subtle way. One is reminded that during the mid-19th century the upper classes were seeking to portray an image of stoicism and stability coupled with a shimmer of sentiment.
Heinrich Hollpein, Portrait Of Therese Grob (Franz Schubert's first love)
In this work from 1855, the exacting image of a lady in black is offset, softened, by a loosely rendered backdrop in the classical taste.
Heinrich Hollpein, Portrait Of A Lady In Black (1855)
In 1851, following his success in Kyiv, Hollpein travelled to Rome and it appears he stayed for some time. But, during his autumn years, he returned to Vienna and settled.
An art critic described his evident skill.
“He is one of those few painters who have mastered the whole poetry of colour and have an irresistible effect on our senses through the magic of a glowing colouring knowledge. With a great manner and a performance that was even brilliant at times, the bold play of light and the excellently treated chiaroscuro of his creations captivate the eye of the unbiased viewer so much that it is difficult to part with them.”
At the peak of his career, tragically his eyesight failed and led to him finally laying down his brushes. But, determined to continue his artistic endeavours, he became a writer, producing numerous comedies.
Today, he’s represented at the National Art Museum of Ukraine, Transcarpathian Regional Art Museum, Cherkasy Regional Art Museum, and the National Museum, Prague.
Born in Vienna, Austria to Leopold Hollpein, an engraver, and Wilhelmine Hollpein (nee Grob).
Taught initially by his father.
Enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Exhibited portraits via the Academy.
Undertook study trips to Germany and Poland.
Travelled to St Petersburg, Russia.
Moved to Kiev, Ukraine, where he lived for around 16 years.
Moved to Rome.
Travelled to Munich via Naples.
Moved to Vienna.
Died in Vienna, Austria.