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Gustav Schönleber

* 1851 – † 1917

Bogliasco (on the Riviera)

Oil on canvas
87 cm68 cm
34.25"26.77"

Signed and dated at bottom right: G. Schönleber, 1886

Bogliasco (on the Riviera)

After a curious start, Gustav Schönleber’s career followed a steady upward trajectory. Being blind in one eye, he initially began training as a mechanical engineer; when the blind eye had to be removed, however, he was allowed to do what he had always enjoyed – namely to draw and paint. In the autumn of 1870, he was taken on as a pupil in the Munich studio of Adolf Lier, who judged him to be “unspoiled by any academy.” Lier, whose own work had been shaped by stays in Paris and Barbizon, gave his pupils a lot of latitude. Schönleber took advantage of this to explore first Venice and then, in the early summer of 1872, Genoa, where he stayed with an uncle and gained his first impressions of the Riviera. As Schönleber himself would later admit, he had “not known what to do with the usual beauty of Italy, the blue sky, and only in ‘poor’ weather did I like my sketches rather better and develop more of an interest in nature.” A study trip down the Rhine in the summer of 1873 with visits to Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Scheveningen brought relief. Vermeer’s View of Delft had long been Schönleber’s yardstick, “as well as the studies of Mesdag,” a leading artist in The Hague School.1 What all had in common was paint – paint as pigment, paint as matter – whose visual potential had to be fathomed and made to bear fruit. The view of Bogliasco situated half way between Genoa and Rapallo sums up the wealth of experience that Schönleber had by then acquired. It is a view from the cliff top, extending far out to sea but taking in the village, the pools left behind by the stream from which it derives its name, and the laundry laid out to dry on the beach behind the ancient-looking bridge. The breakers and the sailing boat tell of a southerly wind and warm air; there is life stirring everywhere and the whole scene is bathed in finely nuanced sunlight that dazzles on the rooftops and is fragrant amid the greenery, becoming rich and sonorous in the areas of shade. It is a feast for the eyes. Art critics at the Karlsruhe exhibition of 1886 hailed the painting as “exquisitely well done.”2 A short time later, “the exceptionally fine painting ‘Bogliasko (sic!) an der Riviera’” went on show at the Münchener Kunstverein and “was acquired for the collection of the Prince Regent [Luitpold of Bavaria].”[^Mthr. [Muther, Richard], Correspondence from Munich, Kunstchronik 22, No. 30, 5 May 1887, col. 486.]


  1. Gustav Schönleber, Notizen zu meinem Leben, in Die Rheinlande 11, No. 1, January 1906, pp. 1–8.

  2. Exhibitions, collections, etc. Karlsruhe, Die Kunst für Alle 2, No. 8, p. 124.

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