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Cherubino Antonio Kirchmayr (1847-1903)
The following biographical information has been provided by Pauline Mary McGregor, granddaughter and Claire James, great granddaughter of the artist.
Cherubino was born in Venice on 25th January 1847. (This date was obtained from his original Baptismal Certificate). His father, Giacomo Kirchmayr, born in Munich, Austria, was a copper plate engraver and a director and owner of his namesake Litographia in Venice. Giacomo married a Venetian girl, Maria Piccinin, and they had 10 living children, of whom Cherubino was the youngest son.
Cherubino was a student at the Venice Academy of Art from 1863 to 1869. He was elected professor of the Academy itself and served in this position from 1870 to 1872. He served as President of the Academy and his name is inscribed on the plaque in the garden of the Academy.
After a short time in this capacity, the professor went to Munich where he studied under Wagner. Then to Paris where he continued his studies and then on to Madrid for five months having a commission to copy the Velasquez paintings in the Museo de Prado.
Professor Kirchmayr worked in both oil and watercolor and when asked which he preferred he admitted that he had no preference. In the space of twelve years he painted over two hundred life-size portraits in watercolor
He became a very fine oil painter, and from about 1880, he made his living chiefly by painting portraits of foreign Nobility and Royalty; thus most of his work is in private collections. His work is rather better known on the Continent than in England, and he had probably painted more of the grandees of Europe than any other man. He was a very distinguished genre and portrait painter, and among well-known people painted by him were Princess Herbert Bismarck and children, the Count and Countess Hoyos, Prince Paul Metternich and family, Prince Windishgraetz & family, Don Carlos (pretender to the throne of Spain), Prince Boris, and the Duchess of Orleans.
Professor Kirchmayr preferred painting women and children, although some of his strongest and best works were portraits of men. One of his best known portraits is the life-sized one that he painted of Don Carlos. This is said to be the favorite portrait of the Don Carlos’ family, and is hanging in the place of honor in their Loredan Palace at Venice. It is described in an article in an English Newspaper “as a distinguished work. A robust painting, very vigorous and fresh with a luminous and energetic effect. The standing figure of His Grace looms, large as life, against a marble background. He wears a General’s uniform with simple decorations and the Golden Fleece, with his coat over his shoulders. His posture is calm, serious and severe. The portrait is very natural, especially in the reproduction of his face, which is very close to the original”
Cherubino was a very cosmopolitan man, moving all over Europe and beyond to paint his portraits of the aristocracy. His obituary tells us that “Professor Kirchmayr traveled in Russia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and England, and spoke the languages of all those countries. He lived and painted in every important city in Europe”
In 1886 he married Elizabeth Sprackett, an English girl much younger than himself. They had three living children, Leopoldine 1887, Gladys 1896 and Pauline's father, Paul 1901.
He moved to England and presented himself with a portrait of G.T. Robinson at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1886. Other notable works are the Shoe Repairer (1889), Peep bo and Coming Attractions Cast Their Shadow (1890), Sunshine the Irish Woman.
Cherubino died in Bedford Park, London, England January 22, 1903 a few days before his 56th birthday. An article in a Venetian Newspaper says: - We received a telegraph from London on 22 January to say that the painter Cherubino Kirchmayer, who had been living there for some time, had died. He was fifty-five years old. He studied at our Fine Arts Academy, where he exhibited his first painting at the age of only 18. In Venice he was very well known in the Art World. His best-known portraits in Venice include the Countess Albrizzi and his Royal Highness, the Duke of Madrid with his War Counselor. His Venetian Cobbler is also very well known. Note the variations of the spelling of his name in the different articles - sometimes Kirchmayer, sometimes Kirkmayr, and sometimes Kirchmayr.
He exhibited at: Royal Society of British Artists (5 paintings) 1902; Royal Miniature Society (8 paintings) 1900; London 1886 & 1889; Liverpool 1888; Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham (2 paintings); Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (5 paintings); Manchester City Art Gallery (3 paintings); Royal Academy (6 paintings). In 1890 he exhibited two flower pieces in the Glass Palace in Munich.
The painting Portrait of My Father is in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Ca’Pesaro, Venice.
The painting Countess Albrizzi and Daughters is hanging in Piano Nobile, the home of Lorrenzo Albrizzi in Venice.
A watercolor portrait of Robert Browning hangs in the Treasure Room of the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, Texas The portrait was presented to Baylor in 1945 by John Welsh, a member of Sigma Tau Delta, Baylor’s honorary English society.
He received the “First Gold Medal at Santiago (Chile)” for his famous painting entitled Ragazzaglia, a charming study of a group of dirty, ragged urchins playing a game of cards on the pavement.
Several of Cherubino’s paintings are in the homes of his family in Italy, England and Canada.
Notable mentions are to be found in the following publications:
C. Boito, Sculpture and Paintings of the day in Turin 1877 Page 124
V. Mikelli, National exposition of fine art in Venice, 1888 Page 54
A. deGubernatis, Dizion of Italian art, 1889
A. Graves, Royal Academy IV, London 1906 Page 332
Chronicle of art XXII Page 554
Catalogue of the salon society of art, Paris, France 1880 and 1894
International exposition in Venice 1903
Exhibition at the Glasshouse Palace, Munich, 1890 Page 90
Artist house Vienna 1895 XXIII exhibition, 1896 XXIV exhibition.
Johnson & Greutzner’s Dictionary of British Artists 1880 - 1940
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