Privy councillor Georg Langer
  • Franz Skarbina
  • Berlin 1849 - 1910
  • Privy councillor Georg Langer
  • Watercolour over pencil, on paper, mounted on board
  • monogramed with pencil: F. SK.
    inscribed on the old mount: Geheimrat Langer
  • 473 × 316 mm

Franz Skarbina, an artist born into a milieu of simple handworkers, could with justifiable pride count himself among the most famous painters in the city by the time he had moved into his prestigious new studio at Leipziger Platz in Berlin in 1880. This was soon reflected in his customer list, as evidenced by the Portrait of an Old Gentleman with a Frock Coat, Cane, and Top Hat (Fig. 15) who clearly belonged to the upper crust of Berlin society. Because the artist dispenses with any reference to the environment and shows his model totally isolated, he shifts the observer’s focus to the specific lighting situation, with bright reflections on the top hat, areas of flesh, and shoes; in doing so, he enlivened this scene of contemplative lingering. According to an old inscription, the person represented is Georg Langer, deputy chairman of the Privy Admiralty Council, and vice president of the Society for Marine Engineering which was founded in Berlin under the auspices of Emperor Wilhelm II in 1899 and still exists today in Hamburg. Skarbina portrayed him again in 1901 as part of his multi-figural painting Emperor Wilhelm Speaking to the Members of the Society for Marine Engineering in the Auditorium of the Technical University in Berlin-Charlottenburg (Fig. 1). In recording a contemporary event in a large-scale oil painting, Skarbina created here historical painting that responded to the demands of modern art history – to which he was clearly committed, as a founding member of progressive artists’ associations like the Group of Eleven (1892) and the Berlin Secession (1898).