Road to Reval'' (c. 1890) Oil on canvas, 27"H x 48"W (without frame), Framed
Although Hoffmann's most known works are his tavern scenes and farmboy portraits, a large part of his painted works were grand landscape and seascape paintings and country-themed compositions. These bring together a very masterful realistic portrayal of a range of symbols (windmills, campfires, muddy paths, paupers vs. a train of market-goers, etc.) which were understood and close to the public.
One such painting is “Road to Reval”, which is signed in Cyrillic. O. Hoffmann's biographer A. Tõnisson, in his seminar thesis (Tartu University, 1936), dated the painting with the year 1876, which is when the artist began to achieve success in Düsseldorf. A. Tõnisson appraised the work very highly: “Of his 1876 works, one depicts market-goers going through a village. The primary emphasis is not placed on the people, but on describing every detail of the painted village. … This is certainly a masterpiece of depicting a typical situation. We can hardly find another painting prepared with such precision and consideration as this in O. Hoffmann's works—down to the shiny layer of ice forming on the water in the ditch, the entire picture reflects the atmosphere of a frosty, foggy morning.”.
The painting has definitely seen some art exhibitions in Russia at the end of the 19th century.
Signature lower left.
The work is done with oil paints on pre-coated factory-made canvas with a medium-tight weave, which is typical for the second half of the 19th century. The back side of the canvas is well-preserved; the surface is evenly acidic. The means of attachment to the subframe is in accordance with standard criteria, necessary for a painting to be stored in a museum. The subframe is professional and has the original cross-bar, which also speaks for the time of the work's creation. The subframe is well-preserved.
The surface of the painting is original and has not been restored. The entire surface is covered with an even craquelure that corresponds to the natural aging of the work since its creation. About 15 years ago the work was professionally conserved (the pigment layer has been bound and surface grime has been removed). With ultra-violet light one can clearly see that the surface of the painting was covered with an even coat of lacquer by the artist.
The overall condition of the painting can be declared very good for a work of art dating from the end of the 19th century.
Certificates of authenticity:
V.A.Petrov. Independent art historian and expert, Moscow. 17.02.2005.
Mai Levin. Leading specialist of Art Museum of Estonia. 04.03.2009.
The Road to Reval. 19th century Estonian art from private collections. Mikkel Museum (Art Museum of Estonia), St.Lucas Gallery; 13.02 – 21.03.2000. Exhibition catalogue pg.130-133.
Oskar (Georg Adolf) Hoffmann belongs simultaneously to Estonian art history, the school of Russian realistic painting, and the so-called Düsseldorf school. He was also known as a respectable etcher in his time. His most important teacher is thought to be Saaremaa-born landscape painter Eugen Dücker (1841-1916), who studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and implemented the best characteristics of the Russian school while working at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts after 1872. O.Hoffmann did study in the studio of Prof. Dücker in Düsseldorf for a short period in 1875. Before that he studied in the painting class of Eduard von Gebhardt at Düsseldorf Academy, also for a short time—from April to June of 1874.
He was most influenced in Düsseldorf by his contemporary and fellow countryman Gregor von Bochmann (1850-1930), who became a professor at the academy in 1895. In his popular creations, he managed to bring together the influences of all three Estonian-born art professors in Düsseldorf. In 1882-83 the artist settled in Russia permanently, spending his summers in Estonia, which is where he collected the subject matter for many of his paintings.