Wilhelm Meyer in Spain

The architectural painter Wilhelm Meyer (1806-1848) from Zurich started his training as painter of set designs and decorations in 1832 in Munich under Simon Quaglio, descendant of the renowned Italo-German artist family (Fig. 1). There he learnt perspective depiction, which would be of great benefit for his future career. After working for theatres in Nuremberg and Zurich, Meyer made his way to Italy on a study trip in 1842, where he achieved first successes as architectural painter in Rome (Fig. 2). A journey to Spain followed in 1845-1846, where Meyer developed new pictorial themes through the Islamic monuments of al-Andalus  just like many of his contemporaries had done as well. Upon moving to Paris in 1846, these new subjects helped him to earn international praise. Illustrious representatives of European high nobility like Ludwig I of Bavaria or William I of Wurttemberg became his clients.  FG

Meyer 1855. Pestalozzi 1908.

Discovering Islamic Architecture

Like numerous 19th-century architects and artists, Wilhelm Meyer made first contact with Islamic architecture in Sicily. His pencil drawing Sale de bains au Chateau maure la Zisa is a detailed rendition of the Norman palace’s audience chamber (Fig. 3). Meyer’s study is proof for the ‘architectonic gaze’ of the Zurich painter, that captures the perspective space correctly and masterly draws attention to the multi-level muqarnas conches. The juxtaposition of Christian and Islamic building forms fascinated him to such an extent, that he embarked on a second journey to Sicily in Spring 1843. Meyer’s interest in Islamic architecture must have been awakened here  just like that of Prussian architect Carl von Diebitsch. Both were to continue their studies in Spain, where they found new input for their later works in the Islamic monuments of al-Andalus.  FG

Pestalozzi 1908. Pflugradt Abdel-Aziz 2009.

William I of Wurttemberg – Art Enthusiast and Patron

Apart from Munich and Berlin, the fascination for the Islamic heritage of al-Andalus also seized Stuttgart, where William I of Wurttemberg (1781-1864) emerged as an important patron. Already in 1834, he took the decision to have the Wilhelma – realized from 1842 in Stuttgart Bad-Cannstatt – decorated in the “Moorish style”. In 1847, the art-loving regent invited Zurich painter Wilhelm Meyer to Stuttgart to inspect the latter’s Spanish works. According to his catalogue of works from 1855, Meyer sold three of his Spanish oeuvres to William I for his royal gallery of painting; one of the pictures still exists in Stuttgart today. The Generalife from 1848 attests Meyer’s architectonic perceptivity and precise draughts-manship (Fig. 4), which inspired the oeuvre of Munich painter Eduard Gerhardt. – FG

Meyer 1855. Jahrbuch 2011/2012. Peschel 2014.