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19th Century Art


Carl Schuch

1846 – Vienna – 1903

”Ingwertopf mit Orangenhälfte”. Circa 1885/88

Oil on canvas. Relined. 65 × 82,5 cm. (25 ⅝ × 32 ½ in.) Lower right with the signature stamp: CSchuch. On the reverse with a (hardly legible) stamp of the art dealership Eduard Schulte, Berlin. Catalogue raisonné: With an archive extract by Dr. Roland Dorn, Wiesbaden, dated 20 October 2021. – the painting is in the Carl Schuch Archive registered and will be included in the Catalogue raisonné, ed. by the Carl Schuch-Society and Roland Dorn.  [3025] Framed 

ProvenanceArt dealership Eduard Schulte, Berlin / Carl Duisberg, Leverkusen (am 30.1.1911 from Museums-Verein Elberfeld acquired, until 1935; thence by descent to the present owner)

EUR 120.000 – 150.000
USD 140,000 – 174,000

Sold for:
287,500 EUR (incl. premium)

„Ingwertopf mit Orangenhälfte“

Auction 334Wednesday, 1 December 2021
03:00 PM

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ExhibitionMalerei von etwa 1860 bis zur Gegenwart aus Kölner Privatbesitz. Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1925, cat. no. 80 („Stilleben“)

Literature and IllustrationKarl Hagemeister: Karl Schuch. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Berlin, Bruno Cassirer Verlag, 1913, ill. p. 131 / Brigitte Huck-Hajek: Karl Schuch. Die Stilleben. Phil. Diss. Universität Wien 1979, Nr. 52, w. ill. („Stilleben mit Obstschale und Keksdose, [...] um 1885, Paris“) / exh. cat.: Aus dem Neunzehnten. Von Schadow bis Schuch. Roland Dorn (ed.) Wiesbaden, Museum, 2015/16, p. 456, ill. 25 (not exhibited)

On composing human things

One of the many questions that Carl Schuch's "Ginger Pot with Half an Orange", created around 1885, is capable of raising is probably the oldest one ever addressed to filled glasses: Half full or, on the contrary, already half empty? As meaningless as the question sounds at first, it is by no means so, especially in view of this still life: as so often, Schuch has brought everything into a balance that is as finely orchestrated as it is precarious. Some things in the picture threaten to lose their balance and slip off the table in the next moment, but it is precisely this that creates the enormous tension in this "modernised" still life. In the direction of the reader, the artist shows a creamy white cloth, a peeled orange, an earthenware vessel wrapped in wickerwork with a wide stopper - Schuch's ginger pot - on a wooden table, slightly offset from the central axis to the left, but at the same height, a porcelain-white plate with a peeled apple on it, as well as the pewter pot of the picture's title behind it, two unpeeled apples, the glass in question with its highly philosophical filling level, and an empty porcelain bowl. Everything is bathed in a warm autumn light coming in from the upper left, which makes the apples and things glow rhythmically, even more so than in the work of Cézanne and Delacroix, whom Schuch studied. But it is precisely this light that is predestined to make painted objects dance, and the usual static of "nature morte" depictions at the same time. That nothing is frozen in Schuch's work anyway, but rather brought to life, is shown by the tin pot: the red-cheeked apples reflect warmly in it, and the light direction makes it look like a face.
The table also dances and bends; there are no legs to be seen of it, only three horizontal lines: two of the warm orange-brown edge of the table and those of the rear boundary of the table. Above all, the rear edge of the table no longer has a fixed contour line; its warm brown tone already seems to diffuse into the dark background. The entire surface of the table is spatulaed by Schuch in stripes like laminated wood sticks, thus strongly emphasising the painterly process. But the contours of all the other objects depicted also fray and seem to vibrate in the soft light (especially the wickerwork around the stoneware jar is asymmetrically wildly made and protrudes in several directions). In general, much of the still life is unsteady and tilts to the side, like the orange with the rest of the bowl on the left. Or like the cloth with the conspicuously deep shadow gap in the draught fold to the front, although as a white diagonal counterpart to the porcelain bowl it would fall downwards, following gravity. In Schuch's work, however, the flat cloth does not even bend around the edge of the table. The painter plays a similar game with the peeled apple on the plate: the cleverly peeled strip is clearly the outside of the bowl, which means that the now naked apple has to lie on the bowl to hold it. However, Schuch does not present the corpus delicti of the peeling, the knife's cutting edge, although one would definitely have to see it given the length of the leggy handle. Why does he hide the bare steel or show only a rudiment of the knife's edge? As if to provide a final stark contrast to the flickering outlines of his objects, Schuch's ligatured signature is delicately circled in calligraphy in the bottom right-hand corner of the non-space under the table.
With all this, Schuch emphasises the tense artificiality of the pairings of his thing-like arrangement: on the left, the coarse and robust objects made of earthenware with coarse basketwork and of pewter, on the right, a thin-walled glass and a bowl made of fine porcelain, which is also gilded at the rim and foot; on the left, the peeled, cut, used things, on the right, the unpeeled apples and the pure and clean-looking bowl. One almost gets the impression that the apples have only contaminated the porcelain bowl and should not be in it at all. Schuch's still lifes thus become metaphors for the world - a world that has gone off the rails at the end of the nineteenth century and is rearranged by the artist as a second creator, at least in the still life.

Stefan Trinks

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