Wilhelm Busch (1832–1908) is commonly known as a draftsman of cartoons and comic strips that delighted and amused his contemporaries as well as following generations. Few people know that in his beginnings Busch planned to start a career as a painter and that he continued to paint in oil throughout his lifetime, creating more than a thousand of oil paintings and sketches of remarkable quality. Still he did not have the courage to exhibit them in public.
The exhibition in cooperation with the ‘Wilhelm Busch – Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst’ presents this quite unknown aspect of Buschs work. For the first time more than forty of Buschs oil paintings are brought together with several works by Netherlandish Masters of the 17th century from the Old Masters Gallery at Kassel.
Netherlandish Art of the Golden Age was the principal source of inspiration for Busch, especially masters like Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers the Younger. At the starting point of his career, Busch could study their works as a student of the fine arts at the academies in Düsseldorf, Antwerp and Munich. Also Busch was regularly visiting museums and galleries in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to study Old Master-paintings. One of these collections was the Old Masters-Gallery of Kassel that had just been reopened in a new and magnificent own building at the ‘Schöne Aussicht’ in the city of Kassel in 1877. Busch is explaining his admiration for this collection in several of his letters. Thus the exhibition is showing works that Busch himself could explore at the gallery in Kassel together with his own paintings inspirated by these masters, their manner and the motifs. Buschs paintings cover a whole variety of subjects and types of early modern painting: Still lifes, portraits, scenes of rural life as well as landscapes. His concentration on painting on a very small scale, his sometimes even rough and loose manner of and his choice of coulour, giving preference to brown tones and only small accents of primary colours, is quite similar to the art of Teniers the Younger or Adriaen Brouwer. Also Busch is depicting scenes of a rural world he himself had been born into and throughout his life he was always returning to the region around the village of his childhood. As a subtle and detailed spectator of his environment Busch took part in a movement that interpreted Dutch and Flemish art of the Golden Age as a realistic depiction of the surrounding world. By concentrating and developing on certain means of painting that he has taken from Old Masters, he is also demonstrating the nearly inexhaustible power of his own creative mind. On the footsteps of Wilhelm Busch the visitor can experience ways of reception, inspiration and innovation in the art of the 19th century, but may also gain a new perspective of the art of Old Masters.