(b. 1839, Bernau, d. 1924, Karlsruhe)


German painter, printmaker and museum director. He was the son of a miller, craftsman and smallholder and studied briefly as a lithographer in Basel in 1854 before being apprenticed to a watchcase painter in Furtwangen. Returning home the same year, he started to draw and paint in his spare time. In 1859 he enrolled at the Kunstschule in Karlsruhe, where he studied until 1866 with Ludwig Des Coudres (1820-78) and the landscape painter Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807-1863), by whom he was especially influenced.

He spent his summer vacations drawing and painting in Bernau, and his landscapes, portraits and genre pictures from this time record his transition from amateur painter to accomplished artist. His pictures of his mother and his sister Agathe, which he produced from c. 1864 onwards, show increasing similarities with the painterly realism of contemporary French painting (e.g. the double portrait of his Mother and Sister Reading the Bible, 1866; Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe).

Thoma left the academy at the end of 1866 and went to Düsseldorf. There he met Otto Scholderer and went with him to Paris for several weeks in May 1868. Under Courbet's influence, he returned to Germany to paint pictures of figures and landscapes. In 1874 Thoma went to Italy for the first time and became acquainted with Hans von Marées in Rome. In 1882 Thoma received his first major commission, to paint five frescoes with scenes from Wagnerian operas in the house of the architect Simon Ravenstein in Frankfurt. In 1890 the first successful exhibition was mounted by the Munich Kunstverein and Thoma joined the Munich Secession. In 1899 Thoma was made director of a gallery in Karlsruhe and was appointed professor at the art academy there.

Thoma's realistic landscapes, portraits, and scenes from country life, which are noted for their rich, full-bodied colour, are painted in a distinctive national romantic style. His later, individual style, modeled on that of old German woodcuts, shows rich colouring and depth of imaginative feeling. Typical examples include The Evening Hour (1868; Kunsthalle, Hamburg), Black Forest Landscape (1872; National Gallery, Berlin), and Self-portrait (1880; Picture Gallery, Dresden). His later symbolic religious pictures reveal the influence of Böcklin, especially in their use of fantastic elements and stylisation, for example, Adam and Eve (1897; the Hermitage, St. Petersburg).

On his seventieth birthday, the Hans Thoma Museum was opened as an annex of the Karlsruhe Kunsthalle.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.