The Auction Sale
oil on canvas, 48 7/8" x 62"
Gift of Alice Tweed Tuohy
The Auction Sale is one of the most complex
narrative paintings among the Tweed Museum’s European holdings.
A host of characters from various levels of mid-nineteenth German
society are gathered in the attic studio of an artist, presumed to
be recently deceased. The painting depicts a fleeting moment in time,
which nonetheless speaks volumes about the players inhabiting the
stage-like space and the society in which they live. While his early
works were often drawn from folklore and fairy tales, Baumgartner’s
mature paintings are marked by ironic and sometimes humorous juxtapositions
of the sacred and the profane, all the while based on accounts of
everyday Bavarian life. The activity of this painting revolves around
a large central image of the Immaculate Conception, before which
a mother and daughter stand in awe. In sharp contrast and physically
removed from this sacred reference, two men at the left foreground
study a sketch of a female nude, and another, behind them, curiously
lifts the drapery from an artist’s mannequin. In the painting’s
right corner a clerk records the auction’s sales, while nearby
a peasant couple and their son try on a pair of used boots. Positioning
such disparate activities in a common space, Baumgartner comments
with humor and irony on the timeless struggle between earthly, artistic
and spiritual concerns.