Friday, January 16, 2009

Forgotten Master: Hiremy-Hirschl

The reputation of artist Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl (1860-1933) has been unjustly mired in obscurity.

He was born in Hungary and emigrated as a boy to Vienna, where he was trained as a history painter at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts under the orientalist Leopold Karl Müller. He joined the Visual Artists Cooperative and became friendly with Gustav Klimt, before Klimt departed to form the Vienna Secession.


Hiremy-Hirschl had a promising start to his career, with Salon honors, a scholarship to Rome, and travels to Egypt. But a scandalous love affair with a married woman ostracized him from the Viennese social circle, and he left to live in Rome.

Many of his works are concerned with a sublime and sensual decadence. For example, the painting Ahasuerus at the End of the World, (1888) shows the legendary Wandering Jew as the last man in the polar desert, caught between the angel of Hope and the spectre of Death. Before him lies a fallen female figure, the personification of Dead Humanity, surrounded by grisly crows.


In 1898 he painted Souls on the Banks of the Acheron ("Die Seelen des Acheron" Austrian Gallery, Vienna.) Click the image to enlarge.

The mythological figure of Hermes Psychopompos stands at the edge of the river of the dead, facing a throng of recently deceased souls who implore him to save them from the last trip to Hades.

A 1984 essay* by Gert Schiff says:

“They are all in a state of extreme agitation; only a few children and a couple petrified by despair do not share in the general frenzy. The figures are crowned with roses and daffodills and have the dishevelled look of bacchantes in ecstasy…There is an aesthetic of horror as well as an aesthetic of hedonism."

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*Schiff’s essay is from an exhibition catalog “Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl: The Beauty of Decline,” Roger Ramsay Gallery, 1984.
More samples of his work on Deviant Art, link.
Additional biographical material at Humrich Fine Art, link.
More on Wikipedia about the Wandering Jew legend and the Acheron.

17 comments:

Amy C. Moreno said...

How have I missed your blog? You've got fantastic info and posts here. I just blogged about the E.H. Shephard post after doing a search for him..found your blog that way

Drew said...

That painting of Hermes on the banks of the dead is a beautiful composition...

A great artist to add to my growing morgue file of artists!

white-tean said...

Oh, that "Souls of the Archeron" painting is gorgeous and a wonderful idea and composition!

I'm going to have to try and hunt down a print of it somehow, because it's really gorgeous!
Shame he's still so obscure because his work really is fantastic.

Frank Ordaz said...

I am breathless...Wow!!!!!

How did you find out about this artist?

Pat said...

What a truly imaginative painter!!!

The first painting is just wow....I really like the poses.

John-Paul Balmet said...

Amazing! I am struck by how modern his work feels. It's a real shame these kinds of artists are pushed to the background.

Perhaps times are changing and we will beging to see artists who history has ignored finally find a broader audience. Posts like this one sure help!

Michael Kingery said...

this is certainly the best blog i have on rss... bar none. your commitment and diversity of interesting topics are second to none.

stephen erik schirle said...

wow, amazing. thank you

Scott Altmann said...

Wow -thanks for sharing this artist James. I will definitely be starting an obsessive search for more of his works now ;)

Randall Ensley said...

Wow-I hadn't heard of Hiremy-Hirschl before. That is great stuff.

James, I was fortunate enough to meet you and attend your panel at the New York Comic Con last year. Will you be in attendance at this year's Con(Feb 6-8)?

James Gurney said...

Randall, no, I'm sorry, I'm a bit swamped with deadlines right now and won't be able to make it into the comic con. But I have a bunch of appearances coming up, and in a week or so I'll do a post listing them.

Frank, I found out about A.H-H. from a little exhibition catalog from the 80s that had tiny black and white reproductions. I fell in love with the tiny pictures and was thrilled to find larger reproductions on the web.

There's another masterpiece by him that I kept reading about called "Entry of the Goths into Rome." I haven't found it anywhere yet. If someone has it, please email it to me and I'll put it onto the post.

There are lots of other equally fascinating obscure academics, and if you'd like I'll do some posts on them from time to time.

innisart said...

Wonderful artist! Thank you for posting him. His work is similar to some of Mucha's and also reminds me of Carlos Schwabe, too. Please keep these obscure guys coming!

Rob Rey said...

Wow, beautiful. Thank you so much, I might never have known his work.

stelios said...

I was in Vienna on 2004. I saw the Acheron and I was left speechless. I forgot to note the name of the artist so I called the belvedere curator and she told me the name Hirschl, and the title.
It is now after 6 years that I find the painting on-line. It never turned up in past searches.

stelios said...

check out his best painting.
Seaside Semetery.

James Gurney said...

Stelios, I'll have large reproductions of Acheron and Asahueros in my new book Color and Light, due out next fall.

Tanja said...

I could only find a b/w version of the painting you mentioned "Procession into Rome" or "Pest-Prozession in Rom" by Hiremy-Hirschl: http://www.kunst-fuer-alle.de/deutsch/kunst/kuenstler/kunstdruck/adolph-hiremy-hirschl/14679/2/133401/pest-prozession-in-rom/index.htm#

Hope that helps! :)