Ferdinand Schmutzer (21 May 1870 – 26 October 1928) was an Austrian photographer and engraver. Originally a famous Viennese etcher and engraver, his photography work was discovered under a Viennese rooftop in 2001. It had never been published. Like a lot of painters of that era, Ferdinand Schmutzer also used photographs as preliminary studies for his etchings. Almost all the discovered portrait photos prove Schmutzer to be a photographer of great talent who is a master excelling in the use of light and shadow.
Schmutzer exhibited his works internationally and received several prizes and awards. In 1901 he received a small gold medal at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition and in 1905 a large one. A special innovation was the use of large formats etchings, which were unknown in the etching technique until then.
The artist made a series of portraits of important people in Viennese high society, art and culture as well as from politics and business. He also counted the nobility and the emperor amongst the clientele who commissioned his work. One of the best portraits by Schmutzer is the picture of Albert Einstein. In this work the artist was able to transfer the naturalness and cheerful composure of the great physicist to the photographic image.
Ferdinand Schmutzer came from a Viennese family of artists. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, initially sculpture and then painting. However he soon turned to etching which he was introduced to by his teacher at the Academy, William Unger. A state scholarship (the Rome Prize) allowed him a two-year stay in Holland (1894–1896). He visits for the first time Volendam, a picturesque fishing village north of Amsterdam. He has brought his photo camera and takes many shots on glass plates. Schmutzer's photos are impressions of botters (type of local fishing boats) in the harbour, scenes from everyday life such as women making the bed, sewing or reading. The photos also show his special interest in the traditional costumes of the people of Volendam.
After his first visit to Volendam, he stayed at Hotel Spaander and became friends with Leendert Spaander, the proprietor. Until 1926 Schmutzer will return many times to Volendam and stayed in touch with Leendert and his family.
In 1901 Schmutzer becomes a member of the Vienna Secession, an association of visual artists (Vereinigung bildender Künstler Österreichs), founded in 1897 by Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Wagner and other artists. It was a split (= secession) from the Wiener Künstlerhaus, whose traditionalism was condemned.
In 1914 Schmutzer is appointed president of the Vienna Secession. In this period of the First World War, travel was impossible. Based on his sketches and photos, Ferdinand makes the etchings ‘Volendammer woman with white apron’ in 1916, ‘Neeltje’ in 1919, followed by one of his most famous Dutch etchings “Volendammer shaving shop” in 1920.
In 1922 Schmutzer was honorably appointed rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Holland continues to move and in 1926 he makes his last trip to the north and returns to his beloved Volendam and takes up residence in Hotel Spaander as usual.
Today the etchings of Ferdinand Schmutzer are housed in the permanent collections of major public museums in Dusseldorf, Berlin and Vienna. His etched art gained for him Gold Medals at both the Dresden and Vienna Expositions.
The Portrait Painting Gallery in Barga shows from Easter 2023, seven selected works by Ferdinand Schmutzer, as part of the ‘Everyday Life - Dutch domesticity around 1900’ exhibition. Other works to be seen on this exhibition are eight impressive photogravures of the Dutch artist Jozef Israëls among others.