They are two of the most prominent portraits in the house: the portraits of Thora van Loon-Egidius and her husband Willem Hendrik van Loon. In 1909 they were painted by Austrian society portraitist Adolf Pirsch (1858-1929), a painter unknown to the greater audience. The portraits exude a sense of decadence so characteristic of belle époque portraiture. An international air and allure, which brought fame to portraitists such as Philip de László, John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini. Although Adolf Pirsch achieves a very high standard in many of his portraits, such stardom did not materialize for him. Who was this Austrian portraitist? How did he end up in The Netherlands and in what context should his portraits be placed? These and other questions will be addressed in the first monographic exhibition on Adolf Pirsch in The Netherlands, which focuses on his Dutch years.
Museum Van Loon is one of the few public collections that show works by Pirsch; most portraits are in private collections. Hence, many of the works in the exhibition will leave their private living rooms for the first time.
Adolf Pirsch was born in Gradaz in Krain (now Slovenia) in what was then Austria-Hungary and received his education between 1874-1879 at the Academy in Graz. For further studies he spent a period in Venice, Florence and Rome. As an artist he was successively active in Graz, Vienna and Dresden. He spent 14 years in England and after World War I settled for a number of years in Haarlem (1918-1928). His most famous clients were Kaiser Franz Joseph I (Landhaus Graz) and Pope Leo XIII (Vatican Museums). In Holland, Pirsch reached the peak of his career and became a favorite portrait painter of high society.
The commissions given to Pirsch produced portraits that were, at the very least, also meant to be remembered and recorded. The sitter was aware of the fact that - through the painting - a memory was being created. The exhibition will reach out to the wider public on this point, by having a number of people in the exhibition - on film - tell about portraits they have in their homes, and what special moment in their lives this represents; what story is behind it. After all, we all create our memories in (photo) portraits, even if it is not in such a large format as Pirsch's!
This exhibition and publication are made possible by the Hendrik Mullerfonds and the Nederlandse Adelsvereniging.
Please note! The exhibition will be closed on April 23 from 3:00 pm and on May 28 from 2:00 pm.