Self-Portrait in a Birch Grove
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1370 (Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.)
94 × 76 cm
This is one of two self-portraits painted by Thoma on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday in 1899. In the same year, he became director of the Karlsruhe Kunsthalle and professor at the Karlsruhe Art Academy. It was time to take stock as a painter. Thoma, who came in contact with the Realism of Gustave Courbet in Paris and the painters of the Kronberg Painters’ Colony in his Frankfurt years, moves his portrait close to the edge of the painting and thus closer to the viewer. The almost photographic portrait contrasts with the intricate network of branches in the background, which are lit from behind in red – a motif from a landscape that Thoma had previously painted with his wife.