Self-portrait Ludwig Knaus

Ludwig Knaus the greatest German master of genre painting

Self-portrait Ludwig Knaus

Ludwig Knaus the famous German painter of the second half of the XIX century, an outstanding master of realistic visual arts. Ludwig Knaus is rightfully considered one of the best European masters of the genres of everyday life and portraiture of his era. The master’s paintings are always recognizable for their special energy and manner of execution. The best masterpieces of his work are today in museum collections in Europe, and there are many remarkable facts in the biography of this extraordinary person.

Ludwig Knaus has been a sought-after and respected artist for most of his professional career. By the end of his life, he became a very wealthy person, and his works were repeatedly noted with prestigious awards at international exhibitions.

Ludwig Knaus, Visit to the village pastor
Visit to the village pastor

Biography of Ludwig Knaus

Ludwig Knaus was born on October 5, 1829 in the German spa town of Wiesbaden in the family of an owner of an optics shop. Since childhood, the boy was fond of drawing and, even in his school years, attended private painting lessons with Otto Reinhold Jacobi, the court painter of the Dukes of Nassau.

Following the recommendation of the first teacher, in 1845 Ludwig entered the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts, where, under the guidance of professors Wilhelm von Schadow and Karl Ferdinand Sohn, he studied the basics of painting for about three years. Young Knaus turned out to be a very capable student and very soon became one of the best students of the academy, but he did not at all want to paint pictures on religious and historical topics.

Ludwig Knaus, Two revelers on the way home
Two revelers on the way home

Therefore, in 1848, Ludwig left the prestigious educational institution and became a freelance artist. He made a living by painting portraits and paintings of the genre, traveled a lot to his native land, studied the customs and costumes of local peasants.

In November 1852, 23-year-old Ludwig Knaus went on a long trip abroad. First, he visited Paris, which at that time was considered the main center of European painting. At the spring salon of 1853, one of his works was awarded a gold medal, and the young artist gained his first fame outside his homeland.

Ludwig Knaus, A forester at home
A forester at home

For the next seven years, Ludwig traveled around Europe, making sketches and studying the work of masters of past eras.

He visited many cities in the Old World, including London, Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Naples, Milan, Turin, Genoa and Rome. In the evenings, in the rooms of road hotels, the artist enthusiastically painted pictures and during the trip created many skillful masterpieces.

Before his last visit to Paris, while passing through his native Wiesbaden, Knaus married Henrietta Hoffmann, the daughter of the owner of the local luxury hotel “European Court”. The painter had two beautiful daughters, but the youngest of them (Hedwig) died at the age of 11.

In June 1860, Ludwig Knaus finally completed his many years of European tour and returned to Germany.

At first he settled in Wiesbaden, but after a year and a half he left with his family for Berlin. By that time, the artist was already a very popular master of painting and had many regular customers. Periodically, the painter visited Wiesbaden, and in June 1867 he went to the World Exhibition in Paris, where his paintings were awarded the Great Gold Medal, and the Emperor Napoleon III presented the master with the officer’s cross of the Order of the Legion of Honor.

From 1867 to 1874, Ludwig Knaus lived in Dusseldorf, where he spent a lot of time talking and arguing with professors of the Academy of Arts. But then he received a tempting offer from Berlin from the leadership of the Imperial Academy of Arts. The authoritative master of painting was appointed “Royal Prussian Professor” and he was entrusted with the leadership of the country’s largest art workshop.

The artist's daughter. Ludwig Knaus
The artist’s daughter
The artist's daughters Marie and Hedwig Knaus.
The artist’s daughters Marie and Hedwig Knaus.
45-year-old Knaus did not hesitate to agree to move to the capital

There he lived the rest of his life, occasionally attending major exhibitions by personal invitation in various European cities. He built himself a luxurious house in Berlin and continued to create with enthusiasm until his death. The further life of the brilliant master proceeded measuredly and calmly, he enjoyed great prestige among his colleagues and amassed a decent fortune.

Having achieved tremendous success in his professional career, the artist treated kindly by the honors of the authorities at the beginning of the twentieth century magnificently celebrated his 80th anniversary surrounded by friends and relatives, but his life path was already coming to an end. On December 7, 1910, Ludwig Knaus died in his Berlin mansion. He was buried with great honors in the Dahlem cemetery of the German capital, where the remains of the great genius still lie today.

The artist's wife
The artist’s wife
The most famous paintings by Ludwig Knaus

The great master has written hundreds of excellent works during his many years of professional career. However, some of the most famous paintings by Ludwig Knaus include:

  • The Girl in the Field (1857) is a masterpiece that enchants the viewer with the bright colors of a sunny summer day. A little girl in a red cap is picking wildflowers and, apparently, is very passionate about this activity.
  • “The Golden Wedding” (1859) is a large-scale multi-figured painting in which a merry festive event unfolds in front of the audience. The heroes of the day in strict black clothes dance majestically, surrounded by a crowd of watching relatives and guests.
  • “Pies from the Mud” (1873) is a work illustrating the cheerful children’s fun of rural children. A group of tomboy sculpts mud pies, imitating adults.
  • “Portrait of Hermann von Helmholtz” (1881) is one of the most significant works of the portrait genre, created by the master. The portrait of the famous German scientist was commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Berlin.

Ludwig Knaus is rightfully one of the greatest masters of the genre genre in the history of German painting. His paintings still attract millions of visitors to museums and make an indelible impression on people.

The christening
The christening
The little chicken thief
The little chicken thief
The sleight of hand in the barn
The sleight of hand in the barn
Trial of strength (satyr boy with billy goat in landscape)
Trial of strength (satyr boy with billy goat in landscape)