From royals to page boys, the famed Christian Karl August Noack (1822-1905) painted more than one thousand portraits throughout the duration of his career. German by birth, he studied art at the Dusseldorf and Antwerp Academies and later traveled to France, Italy, and the Netherlands. In addition to portraiture, his favorite subjects included biblical and historical scenes and landscapes. Noack eventually returned to his native Darmstadt where he became the royal court painter to the Duchy of Hesse and an art professor at the Polytechnic Institute.
Titled “My Dear Grandpa,” this circa 1850 oil on canvas illustrates the provincial charm of Noack’s portraits. A white-haired grandfather figure rests in a sunlit alley, his violin balanced on one knee and a barefoot blond child seated at his feet. To the right of the foreground crouch three more children and a baby, ostensibly gathered to hear the elderly musician play. The atmosphere is reflective, peaceful; the otherwise dark palette contrasted with the brightness that illuminates the grandfatherly musician. Perhaps this piece depicts a moment of the rest; the braided girl in the background seems to be carrying a warm meal to the grandfather, her possible mother peering in the background from what appears to be a rustic kitchen. Noack’s signature can be found on the top of the doorway.
A charming glimpse into the bucolic atmosphere of a German village, this nineteenth-century would make a lovely addition to a sitting room.