Max Liebermann

Memorial Service for Emperor Frederick at Kösen


Not on display

Max Liebermann 1847–1935
Original title
Kaiser Friedrich Gedächtnisfeier in Kösen
Oil paint on canvas
Frame: 1150 × 860 × 110 mm
support: 930 × 641 mm
Purchased 1931

Display caption

This is the earliest oil by Liebermann in the Tate collection. It depicts the memorial service of Kaiser Friedrich III, who died on 15 June 1888 only three months after ascending to the throne. Liebermann was in Kösen in the Thuringian Forest between spring and late summer of that year. He made and later exhibited several oils of the same subject, one of which was destroyed in 1945. This painting was inspired by the well-known painting 'Mission Service in the Beech Wood at Kösen' painted 20 years earlier by Adolf Menzel. Both the subject and the general composition is similar to Menzel's painting of 1868.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Max Liebermann 1847-1935
N04591 Memorial Service for Kaiser Friedrich at Kösen 1888

Inscribed 'M. Liebermann' b.l.Oil on canvas, 36 5/8 x 25 1/4 (93 x 64)
Purchased from Bruno Cassirer (Grant-in-Aid 'T' Fund) 1931

Prov: J.C. Ertel, Hamburg; Leo Lewin, Breslau; Lewin sale, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 12 April 1927, lot 9 repr., and bt. in; with Bruno Cassirer, Berlin
Exh: Max Liebermann: Ausstellung zum 70. Geburtstage des Künstlers, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, July-August 1917 (91); Max Liebermann, Kunsthaus, Zurich, June-July 1923 (36, repr.); Sonderausstellung Max Liebermann, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande u. Westfalen, Düsseldorf, June-July 1925 (31, repr.); 1850-1925 fünfundsiebzig Jahre klassischer deutscher Malerei, Hugo Perls, Berlin, February-March 1926 (29); Deutscher Künstlerbund, Künstlerhaus, Hanover, February-April 1928 (221); Deutsche Kunstausstellung, Glaspalast, Munich, May-October 1930 (1546); Max Liebermann 1847-1935, Isidor Kaufmann 1853-1921, Lesser Ury 1862-1931 ..., Ben Uri Art Gallery, London, November 1968 (1); Germany in Ferment, Dunelm House, Durham, October-November 1970 (1); Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, November-December 1970 (1); Leicester Art Gallery, December 1970 (1)
Lit: Friedrich von Boetticher, Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Dresden 1895), Vol.1, p.866; Hans Rosenhagen, Liebermann (Bielefeld and Leipzig 1900), p.34; Erich Hancke, Max Liebermann (Berlin 1923), pp.244-6; Karl Scheffler, Max Liebermann (Wiesbaden 1953), p.57, repr. pl.26
Repr: Max J. Friedländer, Max Liebermann (Berlin c.1924), pl.35; John Rothenstein, Modern Foreign Pictures in the Tate Gallery (London 1947), pl.42

Kaiser Friedrich III died on 15 June 1888 only three months after his accession. Liebermann was at Kösen in the Thuringian Forest that year from the spring until the end of August.

According to the catalogue of the Lewin sale, the present work is his first version of this composition. A second, revised version, showing an angle of vision slightly more to the left and with changes in the grouping of the figures, was acquired in 1916 by the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, but was unfortunately destroyed in 1945. Paintings of this subject were exhibited in the Münchener Jahresausstellung von Kunstwerken aller Nationen, Königl. Glaspalast, Munich, 1889 (580a) and the 37th Annual Exhibition of Pictures, French Gallery, London, 1890 (73), but it is not clear which version, or versions, these were.

As has often been pointed out, Liebermann was inspired by the well-known painting 'Mission Service in the Beech Wood at Kösen' by Adolf Menzel, painted in 1868, a picture similar not only in subject but in general composition.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.439-40, reproduced p.439

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