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Self-portrait of Franz Hoepfner

Date made: c.1890

Artist: Hoepfner, Franz

Description: A self-portrait in oils of the German artist, Franz Hoepfner, c.1890. The artist is best-known for his atmospheric oil paintings and large scale Manx landscapes produced for Douglas tourist venues. Hoepfner’s tragic personal life, which culminated in his own suicide following the death of his wife in 1893, can be seen in this portrait.

The portrait, in oils, is painted in a mixture of fine detail (the face and hair) against a looser treatment of the background and clothing. Many portraits have neutral backgrounds, but here Hoepfner has included a partially rendered brick wall. Is this his semi-derelict studio? The self-portrait shows the artist in early middle age, his beard and hair beginning to show the first signs of grey. His generally unkempt appearance, together with his uniform of soft collar, loose black bow tie and artist’s smock, suggest a dishevelled bohemian artist.

Franz Hoepfner is best-known for his atmospheric oil paintings and large scale Manx landscapes produced for Douglas tourist venues. A self-portrait provides a different perspective on his art. This troubled portrait of the artist may be trying to convey a general sense of artistic passion or frustration, but knowledge of Hoepfner’s personal life provides a more specific reason. Hoepfner’s wife, listed in 1891 as a patient in the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, died following an operation two years later. In that same year Hoepfner himself committed suicide. This painting may therefore provide a tragic insight into the artist’s feelings during the last years of his life.

The pained, if not tormented expression, seen particularly through the eyes, imparts a sense of sullen anger and frustration. Although a different style of portrait compared to the more urbane image portrayed by Hoggatt, neither artist has used white flecks in the pupils. The impression in both is of dead and lifeless eyes. Hoepfner’s portrait looks directly at the viewer, although there is a lethargic and listless feel to the stare.

Measurements: artwork: 59 cm x 49 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 2000-0064

Subject tags : #mm100artcollection


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