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Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern

Abend bei Ostende (Evening near Ostend)

Oil on cardboard

Monogrammed and dated at bottom left:

  1. Juli Ostende FEM*

Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern (b. 17 January 1853 Frankfurt a. M.; d. 26 May 1919 Frankfurt a. M.) was the last scion of the famous Frankfurt family of painters.1 Starting in the late seventeenth century, the Morgenstern dynasty brought forth no fewer than five generations of artists as the artistic skills of the father were handed down to the son. Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern, unlike his father, the landscape painter Carl Morgenstern, was fascinated by what was then the latest new departure in painting: Impressionism. But it was only after Carl Morgenstern’s death in 1893 that he at last succeeded in developing a distinctive painting style of his own, influenced by French plein-air painting.2 In the end, it was as an outstanding painter of seascapes that Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern established himself as a painter in his own right.3 His study trips to England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Normandy, and the Baltic coast gave rise to numerous representations of the northern seas.4 This oil painting, for example, is an atmospheric snapshot of a sunset witnessed near Ostend in Belgium.5 Using a bright palette and painting with visibly loose brushstrokes, Morgenstern captures the harmonious play of light and colour infusing this summer evening scene. The warm light of the evening sun and the delicate pink hues of the clouds are reflected in the calm surface of the water so that sea and sky become one. Even the sailing boats on the horizon blend in with the glowing reds and oranges of this haunting plein-air seascape. Only the vessels in the foreground are dark enough to stand out, even if on the unending expanse of the ocean they are really no more than staffage.

  1. Exh. cat. Kunstlandschaft Rhein-Main. Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert 1867–1918, Haus Giersch – Museum Regionaler Kunst 2001–2002, Frankfurt am Main 2001, p. 281.

  2. Hock, Sabine and Frost, Reinhard (eds.), “Morgenstern, Friedrich Ernst,” in Klötzer, Wolfgang (ed.), Frankfurter Biographien. Personengeschichtliches Lexikon, Frankfurt am Main 1996, Vol. 2, M-Z, pp. 63–64.

  3. Ibid., p. 64.

  4. Exh. cat. Kunstlandschaft Rhein-Main, 2001, p. 281.

  5. Ostend was the queen of the seaside resorts in the late nineteenth century. The Belgian royal family began spending their summers, making it the last word in stylish sea-bathing.

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