Hugo Knorr (Königsberg 1834 - Karlsruhe 1904)

Sunset from Königsberg (now Kaliningrad)

signed ‘Hugo Knorr’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
65 x 114 cm (25⅝ x 44⅞ in)

In this work, Hugo Knorr has infused the expansive coastal landscape with the glorious colours of the setting sun. In the foreground is a small rocky promontory, and the rust-coloured boulders throb orange in the light. Beyond this promontory two boats can be seen heading in opposite directions, whilst a third vessel is much further out to sea. Despite the sails of these boats appearing taut, there appears to be very little wind, and the sea is almost totally flat. This is consistent with the general mood of the work, in which there is very little movement and a distinct sense of tranquility. Rather than cutting through the water at speed, the boats appear still, almost statuesque, and there is no sign of a human presence. The work is presented as a study of light effects over the landscape. The sea shimmers, the colours ranging from soft oranges, to pinks and through to bluish grey on the horizon. The billowing cloud on the horizon glows pink, which diffuses into the turquoise of the dusk sky. The work as a whole is a beautiful depiction of a magnificent Baltic sunset.

In the present work, Knorr has depicted the sea from his birthplace of Königsberg, a port town which is today known as Kaliningrad. Königsberg was founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1255, on the Sambian peninsula on the south-eastern corner of the Baltic Sea. The city became the capital of East Prussia and eventually became a German cultural centre, home over the centuries to figures including as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)and Richard Wagner(1813-1833). Unfortunately during World War II the city suffered heavy damage from British bombing attacks and burned for several days. The historic centre of the city was virtually wiped out including the famous castle and cathedral. At the end of the war the city became part of the Soviet Union and in 1946 was renamed Kaliningrad, following the death of Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (1875-1946), one of the leading Soviet figures of the period. Due to its location on the Baltic Sea the city has always been strategically important, and was home to the Soviet Baltic Fleet in the 1950s.

Knorr worked primarily as a landscape painter and, in addition to his views of his native Königsberg, he also travelled widely in Norway, capturing that country’s natural beauty. A work such as Norwegian Fjord, (Private collection) has many of the qualities found in the present work. In particular we see Knorr’s ability to capture the shimmering reflective qualities of a large body of water, together with a sense of tranquil isolation.

At the age of eighteen Knorr joined the noted Königsberg Academy of Arts where he worked alongside fellow student Carl Scherrer (1833-1923), who was also a landscape painter. He travelled to Norway in 1861 and painted many views of that country’s mountains, forests and lakes. His work became notable for the monumentality granted to relatively simple landscapes. In 1975 Knorr became a Professor at the Polytechnic Institute in Karlsruhe, and he settled in that city for the remainder of his life.