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Alexander Kircher

Ships and marine

Rovinj Heritage Museum, Trg m. Tita 11, Rovinj
23 December 2016 - 10 April 2017


Rovinj Heritage Museum has in its holdings of 12 of his paintings.

 Alexander Kircher, a German-Austrian naval and landscape painter and illustrator.

Alexander Kircher was born in Trieste on February 26, 1867, and he came from a merchant family. The father Johann Kircher moved to Trieste with his wife Anna from Landskron, today a part of Villach (Kards) because of the better working and earning possibilities at a young age. - Trieste, with access to the Adriatic, was at that time the dominant commercial metropolis of the Habsburg Empire. The city was flourishing economically and socially. A few years earlier, the construction of the southern railway had completed the connection to the provincial capital of Vienna. A new shipyard, the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino was established. In addition to the San Marco shipbuilding, there was a second large yard in the city. - The ships of the Austrian Lloyd, the largest shipping company on the Mediterranean and one of the largest in the world, opened ports in Asia, India, China and Japan after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. - A new port had been built.

The Kirchers lived in the town quarter of Borgo Teresiano, in the Via San Lazzaro 9 which runs directly behind the church of Sant'Antonio Taumaturgo, which is located directly at the end of the Canale Grande. Little Alexander, was already growing up near the salt water, where the sailing ships had been moored. He saw the many briggs, schooners, brigantines, cutters, and boats with wary eyes, and experienced the harbor operations up close. Later, further out at the Mole of San Carlo lay the new passenger steamer of the Austrian Lloyd, and behind it extended the bay of the Gulf of Trieste. All these perceptions must have had a lasting impression on the young Alexander Kircher, so that his desire to take a maritime profession was not a coincidence. - So far it is not known in which year Alexander Kircher left his parents' house. Also unknown is the exact reason of an accident and a related irreparable foot injury which Kircher pulled and which led to the fact that he had to break off an animated officer's run with the k.u.k navy or could not compete. The disability did not mean that he stayed in Trieste, he wanted to leave the city and become a navy painter.

One source states that before starting his studies, Kircher started a practical training period at the construction office of the Schichauwerft in Elbing (West Prussia). - It is documented that he began his studies in 1988 at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin. There his teachers were the Norwegian landscape and mariner Hans Frederik Gude
and the German painter Hermann Eschke. - There is no information about Kircher's study period in Berlin, but there are some photos. One picture shows a young man with stick and hat, in an elegant coat, the other picture, a Kircher in the dark suit, drinking with a newspaper-reading friend in a garden club of Berlin White.

 

It was customary that the graduates of the Berlin academy went on study trips after successful completion. - If you get closer to Alexander Kircher's life, you learn that there have been phases with him in which he has always been traveling. - One source calls him even world traveler. Besides his artistic talent, his restless diligence led some of his contemporaries to say that he had sometimes worked like a berserk. For both reasons, his works can be found in museums and in private estates in almost every European country, in Egypt, Turkey, England and the US, as well as on the actions of many important, globally active houses of action.

Unfortunately, there is no list of works and it would break the frame at this point, if you were only trying to recreate such a directory. Therefore, here is the reference to the largest collections and some important works. - Without priority, the HGM Military History Museum in Vienna is to be named with several dozen sea pictures, the most famous painting showing the great „Sea battle of Lissa“. In Vienna there are other pictures, such as the „Passenger ship Isonzo in the Gulf of Trieste“ or at the Austrian Navy Association “Launch of SMS Viribus Unitis“. - An important collection of Kircher pictures can be found at castle Artstetten in the Archduke-Franz- Ferdinand-Museum in lower Austria, where especially the painting of "SM Archduke Karl" is to be mentioned - The largest collection with over thirty exhibits is the possession of the Maritime Museum in Split. A richly illustrated information brochure has been created by the museum management. - The Local-Museum of the town of Rovinj, also in Croatia, has its own Kircher room with several paintings - Kircher pictures are also in the Historical Museum of Istria in Pula and in the Sergej Mašera-Maritime Museum in Piran in Slovenia.

In Germany there is a collection of twenty-two paintings, which are located in the archives of the Military Training Center of the Marine school Flensburg-Mürwik. See for example, the paintings of the three school frigates „Stosch, Stein and Gneisenau“, under full sails and the „Battle of Jasmund“, in 1864. The paintings belonged to a collection of more than one hundred Kircher works from the Institute and Museum of Marine Knowledge in Berlin, which became a prey to the flames at the end of the Second World War in 1945. - There is a smaller collection of eight pictures in the archive of the Museum of Communication, formerly the Federal Museum, in Frankfurt am Main. In addition, you can find individual Kircher paintings in Hamburg, in the International Maritime Museum IMMH and in the Museum of Hamburger History and in Kiel, in the city and shipping museum and in the Town Museum - Warleberger Hof. Also the German Maritime Museum DSM owns some Kircher paintings. - A large painting is mentioned in the lower entrance area of the old Bremer town hall. It shows the aircraft Junkers W 33 "Bremen", with which the flight pioneers Köhl, Fitzmaurice and von Hünefeld succeeded in 1927/28 the first Atlantic flight from east to west. It shows an impressive painting from the sea, above a small airplane.

1893 on the occasion of the world exhibition in Chicago, Kircher traveled to the USA to participate there with the well-known marine painter Hans von Petersen to create panoramas and dioramas. Although there is little information from this period, it can be assumed that Kircher had already gained a good reputation as a painter. This is proved by a series of impressive paintings that were created around the time in the USA, such as "Sailboat before the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor", "Fulton first steamship of 1807", "View over the Hudson River to the skyline of New York" and the beach of "Cony Island". - These and other pictures were offered in America several years ago at various auction houses such as Sotheby's New York, Christie's Beverly Hill's CA and Burchard Galleries St. Petersburg Florida. - Unfortunately, the author was not able to explore the current location of the paintings.

 Kircher returned to his hometown Trieste after his studies in Berlin and various travels. In 1895 he followed a reputation as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Trieste. In 1898 he married Romana Salmassi, a Trieste. The wedding took place on the 15th of October in the church of Sant 'Antonio Taumaturgo, in the district where he had grown up. - From the house where the Kirchers lived at the time, there are some photographs, including: "The painter in his studio." At this time Kircher received the commission from the imperial court from Vienna to capture the Habsburg fleet in 20 paintings - With this order Alexander Kircher rose to the first naval painter of Austria - He was at court, which at the time represented an excellent appreciation of his person. Unconfirmed sources say that he was offered a title, but he had rejected it. - After this event Kircher received numerous orders from the nobility and society. One of the Archdukes, for instance, whose library and drawing-room he had decorated with several maritime paintings and from the baron and industrialist Johann Georg von Hütterot, with whom he was a friend, and whose steam-sailing yacht Suzume he painted. - These 20 paintings have remained in the possession of the family of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and can be visited today in the castle Artstetten, in Lower Austria. - The picture of the yacht Suzume belongs to the collection of the local museum of the town of Rovinj.

In 1900 Alexander Kircher gave up his teaching activities in Trieste for artistic as well as out of political reasons and moved to Germany with his family in 1904 after an interim stay in Vienna. He lived there until 1906 in Dresden in Johannstadt. Afterwards, the Kirchers moved to Moritzburg in Saxony, to Schlossallee 22. - This house is today the town hall.

The painter had now joined the Dresden art cooperative as a freelance artist and had established himself in his new environment. This is proved by a large number of orders from authorities and well-known publishers for whom he worked as an illustrator. For the Marine Authority in Berlin, the World Post Office, the Leipzig Illustrated Newspaper, the Illustrated Weekly Magazine, Reclam's Universe, Leipzig, the art publisher Theodor Stroefer in Nuremberg, to name only a few. - Foreign publishers also issued orders for Alexander Kircher, such as the London postcard publishing company Rafael Tuck & Sons, the Austrian fleets association in Vienna and Kleinmayr & Bamberg in Ljubliana (Slovenia), etc.

In February 1909, at the Spanish Embassy in Berlin, Kircher received the order of Isabella of the Catholic for services in art and science. - Unfortunately, it was not possible to provide the author with any further information on the request from the competent Spanish authority, the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y Cooperación, in Madrid.

In the magazine "Der Spiegel", online edition 21/1977 and by a well-known Austrian art historian, Alexander Kircher was once referred to as the "sea battle specialist", the latter probably referring mainly to Kircher's famous painting of the great "sea battle of Lissa". - This designation does not do justice to his life. Thus he painted pictures of passenger steamers, freight ships, sailing ships, yachts and boats on behalf of various well-known shipping companies. For example the Hamburg America Line, the Austrian and the North German Lloyd, the Hamburg South American steamship company, the shipping company Woermann in Hamburg and others. - Contractors were shipyards as well as companies which had nothing to do with sea shipping, as a factory for the Kircher painted two steel hut pictures. In addition, paintings from the Acropolis in Athen, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as a panorama of the city of Dresden, evening moods of Moritzburg Castle and countless landscapes, which are now in museums or in private ownership. - In 1928, Kircher traveled to Sweden, where he painted pictures of the passenger ships Drottningholm, Gripsholm and Kungsholm in Stockholm on behalf of the Swedish American Line. He also produced sketches for a painting which he later made for the Swedish royal house, which was auctioned at Christie's in Amsterdam in 1999 under the name "The King of Sweden receives the Spanish Monarch". - From this time also comes the painting "Salut for Consul Karl Dwenger", which shows the Swedish cruiser HMS Fylgia in the Kiel Fjord.

1922, the Kirchers of Moritzburg had moved to the Saxon town of Radebeul. They lived there in Villa Max Kuntze, Jagdweg 6 in the district of Niederlößnitz and later in house Zillerstrasse 5. - In 1935, Kircher's wife Romana died. After that, the painter moved to Klotzsche, today a district of Dresden. There he lived in a building that belonged to the former air war school. - The artist decided to create his own work with a series of one hundred paintings representing the development of German shipping over a thousand years. These pictures hung in the Berlin Institute and Museum of Marine Knowledge which - as already mentioned - was destroyed by bombs at the end of the Second World War 1945. - Before, all pictures had been brought to safety in various places; of which only about thirty paintings could still be found. - Where the remaining pictures are left could not be clarified until today.

In September 1939 Alexander Kircher died in a hospital in Berlin-Neuköln. He was buried in the family grave in the cemetery in Moritzburg, next to the grave of the theater, animal and landscape painter Emil Rieck, who came from Moritzburg. - At the end of 1939 the famous historian Wolfgang Loeff published the big picture book: "Germany's sea-navigation, from the German dugout and the Viking ship to the German battleship and the fast-steamer". - This picture book was Alexander Kircher's last great life's work. The painter has not experienced it any more.

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