Würzburg, 1814 - Neuenhain, 1873
Fritz (Friedrich) Bamberger was born into a family of musicians on 17 October 1814 in Würzburg, an episcopal city and the main urban centre in Lower Franconia. He received his earliest training at the Berlin Academy in 1828 under Johann Gottfried Schadow, and immediately afterwards in the studio of the marine painter Wilhelm Krause. In 1830 he moved to Kassel where he studied with Georg Primavesi, a court painter who principally executed decorative schemes. By 1832 Bamberger was already in Munich, where he met Carl Rottmann (1797–1850), whose oeuvre had a decisive influence on him. Rottmann was then working on a cycle of 28 frescoes of views of Italy commissioned by Ludwig I of Bavaria for his Munich palace. Rottmann’s landscape style would become Bamberger’s model from this point onwards. He moved to Frankfurt in 1835 with the aim of painting views of the Rhineland and the Main basin. The following year he made a trip to the north coast of France and to England, painting on his return one of the first canvases which would bring him fame: The Battlefield of Hastings with a View of the Sea. Bamberger used the sketches he made in Normandy and England as the basis for marine paintings, which later became his favourite genre.
After completing his military service in Würzburg from 1837 to 1840 and before moving to Munich in the mid-1840s, Bamberger paid his first trip to Spain accompanied by Karl du Fay, a Frankfurt businessman who was interested in the arts. He would make three further trips to the Iberian Peninsula, which Anja Gebauer has recently dated to 1849–50, 1857 and 1868. Bamberger was represented at the Frankfurter Kunstverein exhibition in 1851 by a painting with a Spanish subject: View of Gibraltar. Critics pointed out the merit of the painting and recognised the influence of Carl Rottmann, with whose work and that of Carl Blechen the painting certainly showed clear affinities.
The regions of Spain visited by Bamberger were principally Castile, Andalusia and Valencia. His wife accompanied him on the trip made in 1857 trip and they spent most of their time in the Madrid region. He came into contact with the Spanish court, probably while it was sojourning at the summer residence of La Granja, from where there are surviving sketches made by him that August. The artist became drawing master to the Infanta Amalia Filipina del Pilar, cousin of Queen Isabella II of Spain. The infanta had been married since 1856 to Adalbert, the youngest son of Ludwig I of Bavaria. Bamberger was entrusted with delivering a painting made by the infanta as a gift for Isabella II. The dynastic relationship between the royal houses of Bavaria and Spain accounts for southern German artists’ ties with Spain. The Neue Pinakotek in Munich has a painting signed by the Infanta Amalia Filipina del Pilar in 1858, entitled Bridge over the Tagus at Toledo. The choice of subject matter was undoubtedly Bamberger’s.
Among Bamberger’s favourite themes were the coasts of Cadiz and Malaga, the Albufera of Valencia, the Sierra Nevada and, of course, Gibraltar. He also painted views of Madrid, Segovia, Cuenca and Toledo. He regularly exhibited his Spanish paintings, some of which passed into the royal collections of Bavaria and Württemberg. However, his most important patron was the Graf von Schack in Munich. Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack (1815–1894), a writer, translator and patron of the arts, took a strong interest in Bamberger’s Spanish landscapes. He himself studied the language, literature and art of Spain, as well as Arabic, Persian and other Oriental languages. His most important scholarly book, entitled Geschichte der dramatischen Literatur und Kunst in Spanien (“History of Dramatic Literature and Art in Spain”), dates from 1845. Count Von Schack acquired seven paintings by Bamberger for his important collection, which was famous for its works by Böcklin, Feuerbach, Spitzweg and other 19th-century German painters and can now be seen in the Schackgalerie. Bamberger’s canvases were views of Toledo, Gibraltar, Granada and other places in southern Spain. The first of them, View of Toledo, was bought in 1861. The paintings View of the Sierra Nevada and The Surroundings of Granada, also belonging to the collection of the Schackgalerie, were the last to be purchased by the count, probably after 1868. In his book Meine Gemäldesammlung (“My Picture Collection”) Count Von Schack refers to Bamberger and his paintings several times and speaks very highly of him.
The artist paid his last visit to Spain, financed by the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, in the spring of 1868. Von Schack was also in the capital at the time, accompanied by the young artists Franz Lenbach and Ernst von Liphart, whom he assigned the task of copying various works by Spanish artists in the Prado. On this occasion Bamberger stayed the longest in Granada and San Ildefonso. We know of no other trip to Spain by Bamberger after 1868. Artists travelled to Spain or other countries for a variety of reasons: commissions for paintings, contracts with foreign courts, to study, to accompany others or to train, among others. Bamberger was an artist who went to Spain on numerous occasions for the pleasure of getting to know the country and for the attraction he felt for its landscapes – so much so that they became the subject of his entire oeuvre. He died in Neuenhain near Bad in 1873.