Sulz am Neckar 1848 - Jerusalem 1904
Born in the province of Badem-Württemberg in southern Germany, Gustav Bauernfeind was initially trained as an architect and became a painter relatively late in life. Inspired by a trip to Italy in 1873-1874, he abandoned his architectural career in favour of working as a landscape painter, at first producing scenes of Swiss and Italian views and cities. Looking further afield, he decided to travel to the Near East in search of more exotic subjects, and began making plans to do so in 1879. Bauernfeind made three trips to the Near East - in 1880-1881, between 1884 and 1887 and finally in 1888-1889 - before returning to Munich in 1890. Six years later, however, he left Germany for good to settle in Palestine, where he lived for the eight years until his death. Although Bauernfeind is today regarded as undoubtedly one of the most significant and gifted Orientalist artists, he was singularly inept at self-promotion and struggled to make a living for much of his career.
Perhaps as a result of his training as an architect, Bauernfeind was particularly interested in the streets, buildings, temples and other urban architecture of the sites he visited in Cairo, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Damascus, and would often travel with a camera. Yet, as one modern scholar has noted, ‘Bauernfeind had no intention of glamorizing reality, nor did he seek only elaborate or monumental structures. He concentrated on genuine paintings of every-day life, on forgotten and little-known corners, markets and narrow lanes – in other words, the scene as he witnessed it.’ The artist would faithfully reproduce these views in watercolour before enlarging them in paintings peopled with exotic figures of Arabs, Jews and others.