I’m sure everyone has at one point seen Carl Spitzweg’s Bookworm, perhaps the most well-known painting of the so-called Biedermeier period. Biedermeier is a general term coined for early-19th century European art which reflects those sociopolitical trends resulting from urbanization, industrialization, the development of the middle class, and so on. Basically, these works steered away from depicting any sort of political or hot button issues and instead focused on harmless, sentimental scenes with a realistic attention to detail. Fair enough. Some might see Biedermeier as benign Bed, Bath & Beyond art, or the Family Circus of the art world, but I think that undermines the sincerity and technical skill exhibited in these works. Not all art exists to challenge the status quo, question our social mores, or kickstart a revolution.
Today I would like to share Spitzweg's Scholar of Natural Sciences, which I saw on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I love this dramatic image of an old curmudgeon absorbed his work. And just look at his study and all the wonderful elements found within: The old stone tablets resting beside his desk, the mysterious sarcophagus lurking in the corner, the lively plant life seen outside the window, the handsome floor globe resting in the foreground, the taxidermy crocodile menacingly hanging over the scene--just wonderful.
Object Link: http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=7760