Gerhard Wilhelm VON REUTERN

Rösthof 1794 - Frankfurt 1865


Born into an aristocratic German family in the northern Baltic region of Livonia (an area today divided between Latvia and Estonia), Gerhard von Reutern studied at University of Dorpat in modern-day Estonia, where he received some instruction in art from the local painter and engraver Karl August Senff. He was, however, largely self-taught as an artist. Reutern served as an cavalry officer in the Russian army and, at the age of nineteen, was severely wounded in battle against the Grande Armée of Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, losing his right arm. While recovering from his wounds in Germany the following year, the young Reutern met the writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who encouraged him to pursue his career as an artist, and to learn to draw with his left hand. In August 1814 Reutern visited the village of Willingshausen in the province of Hesse, where he stayed with the von Schwertzell family, the parents-in-law of his elder brother Carl. He later married Charlotte von Schwertzell and in December 1819 resigned his army commission. After spending some time in Switzerland he settled in Willingshausen in 1824, where the following year he met and befriended the artist Ludwig Emil Grimm, who had come to draw landscapes. The two artists explored the area around Willingshausen together, making landscape sketches as well as portrait and costume studies of the local folk. Reutern established the Willingshäuser Malerkolonie, an artist’s colony that remains today the oldest association of artists in Germany. From the middle of the 1830s onwards Reutern began to concentrate more and more on oil painting, and in 1837 was appointed court painter to the Russian imperial family.