1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hess

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HESS, the name of a family of German artists.

Heinrich Maria Hess (1798–1863)—von Hess, after he received a patent of personal nobility—was born at Düsseldorf and brought up to the profession of art by his father, the engraver Karl Ernst Christoph Hess (1755–1828). Karl Hess had already acquired a name when in 1806 the elector of Bavaria, having been raised to a kingship by Napoleon, transferred the Düsseldorf academy and gallery to Munich. Karl Hess accompanied the academy to its new home, and there continued the education of his children. In time Heinrich Hess became sufficiently master of his art to attract the attention of King Maximilian. He was sent with a stipend to Rome, where a copy which he made of Raphael’s Parnassus, and the study of great examples of monumental design, probably caused him to become a painter of ecclesiastical subjects on a large scale. In 1828 he was made professor of painting and director of all the art collections at Munich. He decorated the Aukirche, the Glyptothek and the Allerheiligencapelle at Munich with frescoes; and his cartoons were selected for glass windows in the cathedrals of Cologne and Regensburg. Then came the great cycle of frescoes in the basilica of St Boniface at Munich, and the monumental picture of the Virgin and Child enthroned between the four doctors, and receiving the homage of the four patrons of the Munich churches (now in the Pinakothek). His last work, the “Lord’s Supper,” was found unfinished in his atelier after his death in 1863. Before testing his strength as a composer Heinrich Hess tried genre, an example of which is the Pilgrims entering Rome, now in the Munich gallery. He also executed portraits, and twice had sittings from Thorwaldsen (Pinakothek and Schack collections). But his fame rests on the frescoes representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments in the Allerheiligencapelle, and the episodes from the life of St Boniface and other German apostles in the basilica of Munich. Here he holds rank second to none but Overbeck in monumental painting, being always true to nature though mindful of the traditions of Christian art, earnest and simple in feeling, yet lifelike and powerful in expression. Through him and his pupils the sentiment of religious art was preserved and extended in the Munich school.

Peter Hess (1792–1871)—afterwards von Hess—was born at Düsseldorf and accompanied his younger brother Heinrich Maria to Munich in 1806. Being of an age to receive vivid impressions, he felt the stirring impulses of the time and became a painter of skirmishes and battles. In 1813–1815 he was allowed to join the staff of General Wrede, who commanded the Bavarians in the military operations which led to the abdication of Napoleon; and there he gained novel experiences of war and a taste for extensive travel. In the course of years he successively visited Austria, Switzerland and Italy. On Prince Otho’s election to the Greek throne King Louis sent Peter Hess to Athens to gather materials for pictures of the war of liberation. The sketches which he then made were placed, forty in number, in the Pinakothek, after being copied in wax on a large scale (and little to the edification of German feeling) by Nilsen, in the northern arcades of the Hofgarten at Munich. King Otho’s entrance into Nauplia was the subject of a large and crowded canvas now in the Pinakothek, which Hess executed in person. From these, and from battlepieces on a scale of great size in the Royal Palace, as well as from military episodes executed for the czar Nicholas, and the battle of Waterloo now in the Munich Gallery, we gather that Hess was a clever painter of horses. His conception of subject was lifelike, and his drawing invariably correct, but his style is not so congenial to modern taste as that of the painters of touch. He finished almost too carefully with thin medium and pointed tools; and on that account he lacked to a certain extent the boldness of Horace Vernet, to whom he was not unaptly compared. He died suddenly, full of honours, at Munich, in April 1871. Several of his genre pictures, horse hunts, and brigand scenes may be found in the gallery of Munich.

Karl Hess (1801–1874), the third son of Karl Christoph Hess, born at Düsseldorf, was also taught by his father, who hoped that he would obtain distinction as an engraver. Karl, however, after engraving one plate after Adrian Ostade, turned to painting under the guidance of Wagenbauer of Munich, and then studied under his elder brother Peter. But historical composition proved to be as contrary to his taste as engraving, and he gave himself exclusively at last to illustrations of peasant life in the hill country of Bavaria. He became clever alike in representing the people, the animals and the landscape of the Alps, and with constant means of reference to nature in the neighbourhood of Reichenhall, where he at last resided, he never produced anything that was not impressed with the true stamp of a kindly realism. Some of his pictures in the museum of Munich will serve as examples of his manner. He died at Reichenhall on the 16th of November 1874.