Portrait study of an elderly Woman
  • Hans Thoma
  • Bernau/Black Forest 1839 - 1924 Karlsruhe
  • Portrait study of an elderly Woman, 1897
  • Charcoal, partly heightened with white, on greyish creme paper
  • monogrammed and dated on the lower right: HTh (attached) 97
  • 336 × 362 mm
Private collection, Eltville on the Rhine

A fellowship from Friedrich I, Grand Duke of Baden, enabled Hans Thoma to begin his artistic studies at the Academy in Karlsruhe in 1857. After additional study visits in Düsseldorf and Paris, the young painter moved in 1870 to Munich, where he was able to forge important artistic connections. Then, in 1876, Thoma settled with his own atelier in Frankfurt, where he finally began to achieve the artistic success – national as well as international – that he desired. A major exhibition at the Munich Art Society (Kunstverein) earned him an honorary membership in the academy there, followed by a royal Prussian honorary professorship in 1898. One year later, Thoma was summoned to be the director of the Art Academy in Karlsruhe. New honours from around the country then followed in rapid succession; a museum was even built for him in the Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe during his lifetime.

This portrait study, so carefully worked through, attests to the graphic bravura of this great artist. With astonishing realism and well-placed light sources, Thoma depicts the personality of his sitter, a simple woman with tightly pulled back hair who looks intently to the right. The finely crosshatched background bolsters the spatial aura around her. Only the upper right corner of the sheet is excluded, where the artist had begun a second study of the eyes.