About this artwork
Carl Blechen is regarded as a pivotal figure in nineteenth-century German painting; his short career marks the transition from Romanticism to a more realistic view of nature. Although he is best known for scenes in which a carefully observed Italian landscape served as the backdrop for mysterious or nostalgic figures, The Palm House represents an important detour in his work. In 1832 Blechen was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia (r. 1797–1840) to paint two views of an exotic pleasure building recently constructed near Potsdam. The architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed the Palm House for the king’s collection of palms. It was situated on the Pfaueninsel, or Peacock Island, a favorite royal retreat dotted with whimsical buildings such as a tiny castle and a Gothic dairy. Blechen’s painting is both a record of the building, with its lush palms and fragments of an Indian temple, and an evocation of a fantasy world peopled by beautiful women purposefully playing to the viewer’s imagination. After completing two exquisite, small paintings for the king, Blechen made this grand version for public viewing. The Palm House was one of the artist’s most ambitious statements, for he soon succumbed to melancholy and madness.
- Carl Blechen
- The Interior of the Palm House on the Pfaueninsel Near Potsdam
- Oil on canvas
- 135 × 126 cm (52 1/2 × 50 in.)
- Through prior acquisitions of the George F. Harding Collection; L.L. and A.S. Coburn and Alexander A. McKay endowments; through prior gift of William Wood Prince; through prior acquisitions of the Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Endowment