Thursday, August 21, 2014

Anton Romako

Admiral Tegetthoff in der Seeschlacht bei Lissa II
(Admiral Tegetthoff in the Battle of Lissa II)
oil on canvas
110 × 82 cm
Austrian Gallery Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

Anton Romako (1832-1889) painted a large number of landscape scenes, influenced by the Barbizon school, but is known mostly for his portraits and historical scenes. His early works display the influence of Biedermeier realism, while the late works are painted in a nervous expressionist style which disturbed his contemporaries. More than a decade after his death passed before his works were reconsidered and appreciated. Nowadays he is seen as one of the most interesting and trailblazing artists of the "Ringstrasenepoche" era. He was impressed by the young Oscar Kokoschka and had a great influence on his work.

He was born in Vienna, Austria, as an illegitimate son of a cotton manufacturer and his housemaid. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna but his teacher considered him talentless. Later, he studied in Munich, Venice, Rome and London. In 1854 he began travels to Italy and Spain and in 1857 settled in Rome for nearly twenty years and his work became very popular with the resident colony of foreigners.

In 1862 he married a daughter of architect, and the pair had five children before she left him in 1875 for her lover. In 1876 he returned to Vienna and relied on the charity of wealthy patrons. He made study trips to Hungary, Italy and France, and he alternated between Paris and Geneva. His two daughters committed suicide in 1887 and he had never recovered from the shock. His last years were spent living in neglect near Vienna, where he died in poverty and not until fifteen years later the world showed interest in his work once more. Because of the uneasiness that speaks from his paintings he is now regarded as a precursor of expressionism. In 1953 a street in Atzgersdorf was named after him: Romakogasse. His painting "The battle of Lissa" was selected as a motive for a recent commemorative coin: the 20 euro S.M.S. Erzherzog Ferdinand Max minted in 2004.