Works by the Court Painter Ferdinand Runk
Ferdinand Runk was born on October 14, in Freiburg at Breisgau. In the year 1785 Runk came to Vienna. He studied there at the Academy of Visual Art. Johann Christian Brand and Martin Molitor, significant landscape painters, performed their work at the Vienna Academy in that time. Their relationship with the real nature, their sensitive access to the light and changes of weather influenced very soon the masterpieces of the young Runk. Just after the graduation at the Academy, Runk turned into a popular artist, particularly for the enjoyable variety of colors applied in his gouache landscape paintings. However he created oil-paintings as well. The gouache technique became the most proper manner of the Runk˘s artistic expression.
After the death of Johann Nepomuk zu Schwarzenberg, his son Josef zu Schwarzenberg decided to make the evidence of the Schwarzenbergs domains from the point of view of topography as well as on a picture. In 1797 he paid 135 coins called florents to Runk for five landscape paintings of Steier region. He liked those paintings with such extent that next year the young landscape painter obtained a contract to sketch in "various countryside of the princely property in Steier and its environs upon the reality." To guarantee working conditions without disturbance in his domain, the prince Joseph zu Schwarzenberg gave a command that all his offices had to provide the painter with the full support during his stay in the property and entire provision as well. The collection of 24 "Views at the Tyrols", grown up from that order, gained such popularity that the master of graphics Piringer translated into aquatints.
Ferdinand Runk received an offer from the price Joseph to become a painter at his Court. On the top of children˘s education, there was another of his obligations to travel with the princely family and sketch in the significant locations visited by the family. "Look at Paris" is known only among the majority of the ancient panoramic paintings (called vedutas) of European capital or residential towns. It was engraved by Johann Adam Klein and printed out by Artaried from Vienna.
While Runk accepted the offered position of a painter of the Court, he created extraordinary voluminous collection of looks at the Czech and Steier countryside. A great number of next paintings of "Views at the Moravian domains belonging to the prince Liechtenstein", Runk dedicated to the governing prince Johann I. For the prince Joseph brother-junior, the Raab bishop Ernst, Runk created the collection of "Looks at the Castle Aigen and its surroundings" in the occasion of the beautiful natural park opening. The park was established at the bishop\'s request and under his support. Inspired by that collection the master of graphics Günther etched very famous copperplate engravings. No more than one collection was destined for apart from the princely family and the nearest circle of people. The collection of "Views at the Holland countryside" situating in the environs of Maasa, Roera and Sambra was dedicated to the marquise Delabord, French statesman and writer. He met the princely family in course of his stay in the Vienna Court.
Since 1803 Ferdinand Runk worked as a princely painter and a teacher of painting in Bohemia. The payments made for paintings of "Ruins of Vítkův Kámen", "Kunžvart", "Plešné Lake" and "View at the Hill Kleť", etc., were posted in books of the princely family.
The mutual cooperation between the teacher and advisor Ferdinand Runk and the gifted princess Pauline zu Schwarzenberg, amateur painter, became extraordinarily prolific. The reciprocal influencing, obvious from the preparatory drawings and sketches, escalated during 1804 and 1805 in the issue of two collections of etching. The princess Pauline published them as the so-called "voyages pittoresques". That means the sort of traveler\'s diaries, very demanding in those days.
Motives, elaborated in the collections of etchings by the princess Pauline, are in many cases retained in the gouaches of Runk.
Started from 1803 until the year 1826, there was created a great number of paintings with motives from the Czech landscape. The majority of them was stored in the Český Krumlov Castle. At first, the only part of paintings located in the so-called Hall of Runk was identified only. With a big support of Jiří Záloha, Dr., from the District State Archive Třeboň, Brunch Český Krumlov, over 130 gouaches, oil-paintings, watercolors and drawings were detected and stated most decidedly as those of Ferdinand Runk. Mr. Záloha supplied with the exact data from the register of the Schwarzenbergs books.
Upon the analysis of colors\' variety, portrayed atmosphere and way of paintings\' construction, the masterpieces of Runk may be split into four periods. The yearly works consist of five "Views at the Alps countryside" and date from the years 1797-1798. "View at Schrattenberg", "Waterfall by the Road under Murau" and "Bridge at Murau" have typical gray-brown shadows of rocks and sort of gloomy.
The second phase contains the collection of 24 paintings of Steier and its surroundings made upon request of the prince Joseph zu Schwarzenberg during 1799-1801. In Bohemia there was identified in total 19 paintings of that collection. "View at the Turach Lake", "Countryside around Unzmark" and "Špýchar at Haynfelden" are considered as the most typical works from that period. There, Runk handles already the light with better care and the countryside looses a flat scene\'s construction. During that time Runk performed in the area of Eastern Alps as well. Runk is mentioned as the first landscape painter of Eastern Alps in the book "Die Alpen und ihre Maler".
The happiest period of his work goes undoubtedly to the years 1803 - 1810. Upon request of the princess Pauline, Runk goes around the Czech demesne and discovers new landscape full of romantic locations, such incomparable with the majestic and unapproachable Alps˘ beauty. The series of little gouaches flooded by sun and expressing piece were formed that time. "View at the Opatovice Pond" is considered one of the most typical paintings of that period. There, Runk went close to the future impressionists feeling of beauty and moment.
"Looks at the countryside in Bohemia", where Runk worked as a bright observer upon all principles of the that time vedutas painting, are filled up by reality. His paintings represent the ideal co-existence of good countrypeople, where the noble society goes along peacefully and naturally and is amused and instructed as well. The folk costumes of countrypeople are elaborated in details on the painting "Fete at Lomec". Four children of the princess Pauline could be recognized on "Topol Island at Červený Dvůr". Probably apart from the scene of burning Embassy hall of Paris in 1810, Runk did not express any dramatic scene, and any ravings of elements did not break his ideal landscape scenes.
Almost one year after the death of the princess Pauline, Ferdinand Runk painted nothing. In the year 1811 he married the lady-in-waiting Rosalie Zedlitz. They had two daughters Anna and Rosalie. One year later the princely cash box marks down again new income of paintings, however with smaller frequency than in the previous years. The size of paintings is growing and the variety of colors changes as well. With his increasing age, Ferdinand Runk is focused on Mannerism and his last collection representing Park in Neuwaldegg is already created without personal enthusiasm. Several masterpieces of the last Runk˘s period steer away. For example, "Bridge at Altlahm", remains the shining wealth of colors applied in the preceding period. Many paintings from the period, when Ferdinand Runk mostly stayed in Austria, were not found. We know about their existence just from the conscientiously managed books of the princely cash box. During the last years of his life, Runk took care of restoration of the Schwarzenberg paintings collections, for example: the paintings of Hamilton located at the hunts Castle Ohrada, the altars painting "Annunciation of Our Lady" by Daniel Gran (nowadays location in Vyšší Brod) of flowers still life from the Vienna Gartenpalais.
Ferdinand Runk was very prolific painter, however he exhibited hardly ever. In 1824 he exhibited eight oil-paintings representing the gradual development of nature from the highest tops of the Swiss Alps to the flat coastal countryside. That exhibition met with a good response. Upon the reviews of that time Runk "... on those original canvases with help of lighting and colors, changing forms of vegetation, surface of earth and water, he expressed extraordinarily superbly the changes of nature."
In 1834 Ferdinand Runk died in Vienna. Three days after his death, the requiem mass was served in the St. Joseph Church and his remains were forwarded to Neuwaldegg, where he was buried. Ferdinand Runk was a painter, who is ranked among the so-called vedutists by the generation of specialists in arts history. However his paintings express much bigger interest in landscape that in topographic description of constructions and towns only. His "Views at landscape" enable to us better understanding of our ancestors relationship with countryside. Such landscape that portrays places that do not exist nowadays or completely changed its appearance. Although Runk is not ranged to the development rank of the Landscape Paintings in Bohemia, his masterpieces adumbrated a new realistic stream of landscape painting from the 2nd half of the 19th century.