Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf
The Old Town on the Drava River, 1856
oil on canvas
84.5 x 109.5 cm
Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf (circa 1807-1869) was the most successful teacher at Osijek’s City Drawing School and – along with painters Adolf Waldinger (1843-1904) and Ivan Zasche (1825-1863) – one of the leading landscape painters in Croatia at the time. At a time when portraits and sacral compositions were considered to be the only motifs there are, the fact in itself that he painted landscapes meant that he cultivated a free-thinking mind-set.
After having received humble painting instruction from his father and teacher at Osijek’s City Drawing School, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (1770-1841), and after he had already painted independently out of doors (in plein air), in 1836 he moved to Vienna, one of Europe’s leading cultural and arts hotspots at the time. However, whilst in Vienna he did not enrol in the Academy of Fine Arts there, given that the academy’s syllabus centring on the concepts of Classicism treated landscape painting as an insufficiently important motif in painting reducing it to precise contour drawing. Instead, Hötzendorf Jr. decided to study painting at painter Johann Nepomuk Schödlberger’s (1779-1853) studio, where and when what helped him was the insights he gained from visits to collections that were open to the general public, such as the gallery of Count Liechtenstein. At first influenced by Vienna’s ‘native landscape’ and ‘landscape of effects’, he later developed into a painter of composed idyllic landscapes and romantic ruins.
Upon his return to Slavonia in 1838, he replaced his father at Osijek’s City Drawing School. He continued to draw and paint, but to a lesser extent. One of the six oils by Hugo Conrad von Hötzendorf in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art is his The Old Town on the Drava River painting from 1856, which depicts the ruins of the Korođvar castle in splendid isolation near Osijek. This is a typical romantic motif, with the help of which Hötzendorf Jr. expressed his inner world, contemplativeness and escapism using restrained and smudged colours. The range of colours that Hötzendorf used in his paintings followed Goethe’s symbolic-romantic interpretation of colours expressed in his 1810 work entitled Theory of Colours.
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb