Heinrich Friedrich Füger (born December 8, 1751 in Heilbronn, died November 5, 1818 in Vienna) was one of the most famous and influential German painters of classicism.
Heinrich Friedrich Füger was the son of the pietist priest and the later senior Heilbronner clergyman (senior of the Protestant ministry of Heilbronn) Joseph Gabriel Füger. In 1764 Füger began his training as a painter in the court painter Nicolas Guibal at the Kunstakademie in Ludwigsburg. Beginning in 1769, he continued his studies with Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s sculptor Adam Friedrich Oeser. Subsequently, he undertook a study trip to Italy and, among others, painted the frescoes in the palace of Caserta in Naples. In 1774 he moved to Vienna. The English Minister at the Court of Vienna, Sir Robert Keith, became his sponsor and patron. He came into contact with the imperial family. From then on his further education and career was promoted by the highest political authorities.
In the autumn of 1776 he received a scholarship to study for several years in Rome. His further artistic development was strongly influenced by Anton Raphael Mengs. From 1781 to 1783 he worked for the imperial family in the vicinity of Naples.
In 1783, Chancellor Wenzel Anton Count Kaunitz appointed him as director of the Vienna Academy, at that time one of the leading art academies in Europe. In 1791 until his wife’s death in 1807, Füger was married to the actress Anna Josefa Hortensia Müller, the daughter of Johann Heinrich Friedrich Müller. In 1795 he became the director of the academy, which under his guidance flourished. In 1806 he became the director of the imperial painting gallery and chief sculptor in Belvedere Palace.
In 1780 he joined the Freimaurerloge “Zum Palmbaum” in Vienna, in 1785 he moved to the “Zur Wahrheit” lodge. He was buried at the Catholic cemetery of Vienna Matzleinsdorf (today: Waldmüllerpark).
Heinrich Füger’s miniatures and portraits owe his former prestige in the highest social circles. Later he turned to large-format historical paintings and became one of the most important painters of classicism. His art had a strong political function, a. In the glorification of certain persons of the imperial family, as exemplified by the Archduke Charles. For example, he painted the “Apotheosis of the Archduke Carl as Savior of Germany” (Army History Museum Vienna). For the Archduke’s study as a warmonitor and general secretary (1801-1809) in the old Ministry of War, At the Hof in Vienna Füger designed a cycle for wall coverings, which in allegorical form the deeds of the imperial house, and above all the armed forces of Archduke Charles as Winners against the French showed. In 1813 Füger drafted a medal for the Volkerschlacht of Leipzig, which ended with a defeat of the French decisive for the liberation war.
The legacy of the baroque period is clearly visible in Füger’s work. The pursuit of courtesy and elegance is also clearly visible. Later critics described his painting style as eclectic and gave the style represented by him the name Viennese Baroque Classicism.
In his artistic education, the academy he directed focused on the clearly defined form, on the sharp, clear outline of the figure – entirely in the sense of the ideals of classicism. Accordingly, the drawing played a particularly important role in education. The form had priority over the color, the drawing had priority over the painting. Examples from the ancient world, combined with intensive history lessons, were central subjects of instruction. In addition, anatomical preparations served as an important teaching material. Füger followed the then academic doctrine that the young students had to copy first the old masters – after stitches – from morning 6 o’clock to the evening. Mengs had argued that art was better than nature, and that, as an artist, one should be guided by the ideals of the old masters – and, moreover, according to ideal, which is better than nature. When a painter paints a leaf, it is not the nature, but an idealized form of a leaf – in the academy.
Füger’s role in the society and art of that time can hardly be surpassed. He stood out so strongly that he was called the Kunstpapst of Vienna. An artist or architect who did not have a work permit with a certificate from the Vienna Academy had an extremely difficult professional position. The report given by Johann Gottfried Seume in his “walk to Syracuse” may serve as a testimony to the significance which the contemporaries gave to Füger. At the beginning of his migration from Saxony to Sicily, he visited Füger in his Viennese studio in Christmas 1801. He describes, for example, his painting “Expedi secures!”, An illustration of the judge’s verdict, with which the legendary first consul of the Roman Republic, Marcus Iunius Brutus (the Elder), kills his sons to death Who had conspired against the republic and for the restoration of the royal rule of Tarquinius Superbus.
An older brother of the painter, Gottlieb Christian Füger, b. 3 July 1749 in Heilbronn, lost (died?) Around 1789, appeared as “Rosenkreuzer”, theologically educated chemist, alchemist, pianist and composer. Through his brother Heinrich Friedrich he also had connections with the Viennese Freimaurern, especially Otto Heinrich Reichsfreiherrn of Gemmingen zu Hornberg (1755-1836); He was the master of the chair in the “Zur Wohlthätigkeit,” which he had co-founded, and in which he introduced his friend Mozart.