In October 2019 a research group was formed at the Forum Queeres Archiv München to investigate the life and work of German painter Paul Hoecker (1854–1910). Two things are of particular interest: Paul Hoecker’s homosexuality and the scandal surrounding his Madonna painting from 1898.
The painter Paul Hoecker was the first ‘modern’ Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He introduced his students to art movements beyond the constraints of the academic art world, such as the Barbizon School, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism etc. However, a scandal surrounding one of his paintings forced him to resign from the Professorship in 1898. Allegedly he used a male sex worker as the model for the mother Maria as a depiction of the Madonna, with whom he also maintained a private relationship. According to the novel „L’Élu“ (1902) by Achille Essebac, this is the painting „Ave Maria“, which is in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. During that time, the infamous Paragraph 175, which was first instituted in 1872, criminalized homosexual relations. Long before the scandal broke, Hoecker had written to the Berlin-based sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld about Paragraph 175 as well as about his own homosexuality:
You dedicate your strength to one of the most humane purposes, and I am pleased to see how many men in the relevant sciences and other excellent and influential people want to contribute to the abolition of this cruel law, but I cannot give you my signature alone – because I myself am predisposed to desire my own sex.Hirschfeld, Magnus. Von Einst bis Jetzt. Berlin: Die Freundschaft, 1922/1923. Print. p.108, translation NM
In 1910 Hoecker died in Munich after he returned from a prolonged stay in Italy (Capri, Rome etc.) during which he became infected with “Roman malaria”. Regardless of how remarkable and brave Hoecker’s personal journey was, remembering him is not only important because of his biography. His Œuvre encompasses an extremely diverse range of motifs and topics, including Dutch genre paintings, religious moral portraits, landscapes and humorous Pierrot-paintings. In addition, it is also of importance to emphasize Hoecker’s significant role within the Munich art scene at the turn of the century, which he decisively shaped as a founding member of the Munich Secession as well as a Professor at the Art Academy. During his Professorship, which, due to the scandal, only lasted seven years, Hoecker revolutionized the once strictly conservative painting class at the Munich Academy with his modern teaching methods, such as open-air painting and encouraging students to free their artistic gaze from academic dictates. Almost all members of the artist group Die Scholle (founded in 1899) were pupils in Hoecker’s painting class, as were most of the illustrators of the then newly established magazines Jugend and Simplicissimus.
Hoecker‘s works were shown during his lifetime in Munich, Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam, as well as at the world exhibition in Chicago, USA (1893) and the Biennale di Venezia (1895, 1897, 1899). Since the last exhibition of Hoecker’s artistic estate in 1913, the traces of his Œuvre have been lost. In recent years, only individual paintings have been shown in group exhibitions at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts (1997), the Schwules Museum in Berlin (2006), Villa Stuck, Munich (2008) and the Haus der Kunst in Munich (2008).
Goals of the research group
- Creating a work directory of Paul Hoecker’s artistic Œuvre as well as researching the whereabouts of his works
- Gathering more information about his stays in Italy after his dismissal from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich
- Organizing lectures on the work and life of Paul Hoecker with selected Art Historians
- Preparing an extensive solo exhibition showcasing Paul Hoecker’s Œuvre in detail for the first time since 1913
- Preparations for a publication on Paul Hoecker
- Reintegration of the artist into the cultural awareness of Munich’s history and German’s art history
We are already in contact with various archives and collections. Furthermore we were also able to get access to and digitize the estate of Valley Walter (Hoecker’s niece), which includes numerous documents and photos giving insight into the artist’s private life. The group currently includes Stefan Gruhne, Philipp Gufler and art historian Christina Spachtholz.
If you have more information about Paul Hoecker or you are also interested in the life and work of the artist, please contact us: