Hermann Kaulbach (German, 1846-1909)
The First Confession, n.d.
Oil on canvas 57 in. x 43 in. (144.78 cm x 109.22 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection, conserved with funds provided by Gerald D. Gordon1872.396
Son of the successful painter and frescoist Wilhelm von Kaulbach, who became court painter of Bavaria and director of the Munich Academy, Hermann Kaulbach tried several professions before becoming a painter himself. At the age of thirteen, he left his father’s house for schooling in the town of Weinheim and then finished his secondary education in Nuremberg, where he lodged with his brother-in-law, who was director of the art academy. Still, Hermann began studying medicine in Munich while planning to become a poet. Eventually, however, his hobby of drawing drew the attention of Karl von Piloty, a professor at the Munich Academy and royal protégé, who convinced the twenty-one-year-old to become a pupil in his studio.
Kaulbach’s talent must have grown considerably in a short time, since this painting was purchased less than four years after he began study with Piloty. The artist went on to a long career with trips to Italy and a professorship at the Munich Academy. Known later for his paintings of literary and historical subjects, Kaulbach was also a talented genre painter with a gift for depicting the events in children’s lives. His sense of humor is evident here as he includes an eavesdropper listening to the confession.