Biography of Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805 - 1873)
Franz Xaver Winterhalter was born in a small village in Germany’s Black Forest, on April 20 1805 and was one of the most well-known portrait painters of his time.
His artistic talent was discovered very early and in 1819, he trained as a draughtsman and lithographer with Charles Louis Schuler in Freiburg.
He received the support of the industrialist David von Eichthal which helped Winterhalter to obtain a scholarship for studying painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He also worked with Joseph Karl Stieler. After completing his studies, he went to Karlsruhe in 1828 and began working as a teacher.
In 1833, he stayed in Italy and shared a studio with Johann Baptist Kirner. After returning to Germany in 1834, Winterhalter was named court painter by the Grand Duke Leopold of Baden. Between 1836 and 1837, his Italian-inspired artworks became the center of attention in the Salon de Paris (regular art exhibition to promote the official court art taste). He made his breakthrough in 1837 with his exhibition "Decamerone", for which he received his first medal.
He painted portraits of the entire royal family and the leading members of the court. He also received orders from many European aristocrats and ruling houses (Great Britain, Spain, Belgium and Austria). The paintings of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) are among his most famous works. In addition to individual portraits, he also painted group portraits. His paintings were so popular that he was often asked to make copies of some of his works. These were often made by his brother Hermann, who was also a painter and had a nearly identical brush stroke technique.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter died of typhoid fever in Frankfurt am Main on July 8, 1873.