German painter; born Dec. 3, 1811, in Berlin; died Dec. 27, 1889, at Düsseldorf. His father was a prominent banker of Berlin and associated with the intellectual circles of the capital. His talented son was therefore at an early age brought into contact with such celebrities as Gottfried Schadow and his two sons, as well as with Felix Mendelssohn and Werder. It was, however, the intercourse with Julius Hübner, who afterward became his brother-in-law and was then a pupil at the Berlin Academy, that induced Bendemann to devote himself to art. After a short course of elementary study with W. Schadow at Berlin, Bendemann accompanied him to Düsseldorf, where he became a member of that celebrated fraternity of art students afterward designated "the Düsseldorf School."

As early as 1828 Bendemann had attracted attention in Berlin by an excellent portrait of his grandmother, which had been exhibited in that city. His next picture, "Boaz and Ruth," his first independent creation, also met with recognition, without, however, giving evidence of the triumphs that the painter was soon to achieve. When, in 1830, Schadow went to Italy, Bendemann, Karl Sohn, Th. Hildebrandt, and Hübner accompanied him, and remained there for an entire year, devoting themselves exclusively to the study of Raffael and Michelangelo.

His "Jews in Babylonian Exile."

Upon his return in 1831, Bendemann began the work "Jews Mourning in the Babylonian Exile," now exhibited (1901) in the Städtisches Museum, Cologne. This work was considered the masterpiece of the 1832 exhibition of the Berlin Academy, and at once elevated the young artist to an equality with the leading painters of the day. The grandeur and majesty of the conception, the nobility and depth of the emotions portrayed, the simple and earnest rhythm of the composition, and the avoidance of the extremes of characterization, all combined to make this picture remarkable in the world of art, and one that was welcomed with the most intense satisfaction.

From 1831 to 1835 Bendemann produced several of his best works. In the latter year the crown prince of Prussia, upon the recommendation of Schadow, renounced his intention to order a copy of "The Mourning Jews," and commissioned Bendemann to paint a picture on the subject "Jeremiah at the Fall of Jerusalem." (See Frontispiece.) This work, now (1901) in the royal palace at Hanover, was first exhibited at the Berlin Academy of Art, where it attracted the greatest attention. About 1835 the artist married a daughter of Gottfried Schadow, and went to live in the house of his father-in-law at Berlin. There he executed the famous painting, "The Arts at the Fountain of Poetry."

Becomes Professor at Dresden.

Unsuccessful in his attempt to obtain an order for a work of monumental proportions in Berlin, Bendemann in 1838 accepted a professorship at the Dresden Academy, and there, in the following year, he was commissioned to decorate three rooms of the royal palace. Notwithstanding an affection of the eye, that in 1841 compelled him to go to Italy, Bendemann, throughout a period of sixteen years, actively prosecuted this work, which to-day constitutes the greatest monument to his genius. Upon the resignation of Schadow in 1859, Bendemann accepted the directorship of the Düsseldorf Academy. This position he retained until 1867, when an affection of the throat compelled him to resign. Among his most distinguished pupils may be mentioned his son Rudolf, Theodor Grosse, and Peter Janssen.

Bendemann was a knight of the Ordre Pour le Mérite, member or honorary member of the principal art academies of the world, and the recipient of numerous honors and decorations.

Bendemann's principal works on Biblical subjects are, besides those already mentioned: "The Three Wise Men of the East on Their Way to Bethlehem" (1833); "Jeremiah At the Fall of Jerusalem" (original title, "The Jews Led into Captivity in Babylon"). The last-mentioned work—perhaps Bendemann's greatest—was first exhibited in 1872, and in 1876 was in the National Gallery at Berlin. It is described in the official catalogue as follows:

"Jeremiah at the Fall of Jerusalem."

"In the foreground, the prophet Jeremiah is seated upon the ruins in speechless sorrow, attended by his faithful pupil, Baruch, who kneels beside him in prayer. The prophet is compelled to hear the curses of his countrymen, who, driven into exile, accuse him of conniving with the enemy. To the right is a group of despairing women and children, from whose midst a Babylonian warrior has just seized a boy. In the center, Nebuchadnezzar, in royal attire, rides in a chariot drawn by two horses. He is accompanied by a group of jubilant women, and is preceded by the army, heavily laden with spoils. Following Nebuchadnezzar's chariot is King Zedekiah, blind, and groping his way with a staff. The latter is accompanied by his wives, and followed by the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant, and by the camels and the baggage-train. In the background, and somewhat to the left, are the smoking ruins of Yhwh's Temple."

In addition to paintings of Biblical subjects, Bendemann produced numerous other compositions, such as "The Two Girls at the Well" (1833); "Shepherd and Shepherdess"; "Penelope" (now in the Antwerp Academy), and "Kaiser Lothar" (Imperial Gallery of the Römer, Frankfort-on-the-Main). He also drew the designs for the Cornelius Gallery in Berlin, and these were afterward executed in encaustic by his pupils (see Rudolf Bendemann).

As a Portrait-Painter.

Equally noteworthy was his genius as a portrait-painter, as evidenced by the numerous pictures of distinguished persons painted by him during a period of thirty years. Among these are life-size portraits of the following: Quandt (1850); Droysen (1855); Karl Sohn (1858); L. Richter (1859); Rietschel (1862); Joachim (1865); Cornelius (1870); Achenbach (1878); Clara Schumann (1878); Du Bois-Reymond (1880); Langenbeck (1880); Niels W. Gade (1881); W. v. Schadow; the artist's father; and Fürst Anton v. Hohenzollern. Bendemann's portrait of General Oberwitz and his wife is ranked by Pecht "among the best which has ever been produced in this genre"; and the same critic considers that the splendid picture of the artist's wife (first exhibited in 1847) would alone entitle Bendemann to enduring fame. Among the most popular illustrations by Bendemann are those to Lessing's "Nathan der Weise" (1875).

  • Julius Meyer, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon;
  • Kohut, Berühmte Israelitische Männer und Frauen, ix. 999;
  • Katalog der Königl. National Gallerie, Berlin.
S. J. So.
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