This website is dedicated to the sculptor Adolf
von Hildebrand (1847-1921), who lived and worked in Italy and Germany.
From the 1880s to the end of World War I, he was considered the
most important German sculptor, a rival of Rodin, with whom he nevertheless
shared an important aim: the reduction of psychological and not
strickly necessary detail. In contrast with Rodin, his elder by
seven years, whom he much admired, Hildebrand aspired towards the
clear, classical and perfected form, especially that of the human
body, whereas his elder tended to opt for the torso, the unfinished
("nonfinito"). Consequently, Hildebrand generally created
not only the sculpture but also paid a lot of attention to its framing
in a private or urban context.
In 1867, Hildebrand went to Rome. There he met
and befriended the painter Hans von Marées and the art theorist
Konrad Fiedler. The latter, stimulated by the company of his friends
and numerous discussions, searched for and found elements to substantiate
the theoretical cognition of the artist's creative power which he
expounded in significant essays. He stimulated Hildebrand to do
the same, especially with regard to his own sculptural work. The
result was Hildebrand's still much discussed and valued book: "Das
Problem der Form in der bildenden Kunst" (The problem of
Form in Painting and Sculpture). It primarily considers the physiological
and psychological genesis of the three-dimensional work of art according
to the laws of the human eye. On the other hand, the book represents
a form of initiation for young sculptors and is founded on Hildebrand's
own experience of the creative process. "Das Kunstwerk muss
augengerecht sein" (The work of art has to do justice to the
eye) was how the art historian Heinrich Woelfflin expressed the
essence of the book.
Fiedler was the first client to commission something
from Hildebrand in 1870: his portrait and the 'Trinkender Knabe'
(boy drinking, now in the Nationalgalerie
Berlin). Three years later, Hildebrand and Marées worked
together on the "Zoologische Station" in Naples. In 1873,
Hildebrand settled in Florence, where he lived and worked for the
next twenty years. He married there and produced portraits (mainly
commissioned), statues, reliefs and tombstones. He worked as an
autodidact, learning from the old masters.
In 1889, Hildebrand won the competition for a
monumental fountain which was to be built in the centre of Munich
(Wittelsbacher Brunnen). He was commissioned to execute the work,
provided that he settled in Munich, which he did, without giving
up his Florentine house. Seven years later he was asked to take
over the direction of the sculpture class at the Münchner Kunstakademie.
In his contract he stipulated that he would teach advanced students
how to carve stone, which was a skill he superbly mastered. He refused
any form of salary except for the money to buy the stones. A slight
stroke put an end to his activity at the academy in 1910.
During his time in Florence, Hildebrand created
a number of statues (Einzelfiguren)
often in 3/4 life size. Later, in Munich, he made statues and reliefs
only on commission, namely the ones for fountains, but also for
tombs in architectural settings. About 25 reliefs (Reliefs)
from the Florentine period remain, some of them in his Florentine
house. They often represent couples, sometimes human and animal
groups (e.g. Leda).
Hildebrand was one of the best portraitists of
his time. We owe him about 250 portraits (Porträts),
including 84 reliefs. The personalities who sat for him were great
scientists or inventors, princes, artists and musicians.
Except for early statues and the "Das Problem
der Form..." treatise, his five monumental urban fountains
(Brunnen) were the achievements
that sealed his fame. Moreover, he designed 15 monuments, which
he always tried to harmoniously insert within the surrounding town
or landscape. The same can be said for the numerous tombs and mausoleums
(Denkmale und Grabmale)
he conceived. Hildebrand's lifelong interest and gift for architecture
and urban ensembles determined many of his works, particularly the
fountains and other monuments (Architektur).
He produced a considerable number of architectural projects, most
of which however, were never executed.
A small bibliography (Literatur)
and a list of both the places where some of Hildebrand's sculptures
can be viewed as well as the museums which house his works (Standorte)
are some of the other features of this website.