Back to results

Portrait of Pál Szinyei Merse Wilhelm Leibl


Wilhelm Leibl Cologne, 1844 – Würzburg, 1900

Culture German
Date 1869
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil on canvas

139.5 x 102 cm

Inventory number 10.B
Collection Department of Art after 1800
On view Hungarian National Gallery Building D, First Floor, From Delacroix to Vasarely – Highlights from the Collection of International Art after 1800, Baroque Hall

In 1869 Gustave Courbet, who was staying in Munich, met and became a friend of Leibl. It was considerably due to the influence of Courbet, that Leibl, subsequently a leading figure of German realism, and Szinyei, studying in Munich at that time, turned away from Piloty at the Academy. In the following years Szinyei also became a member of the group of friends who met regularly in Leibl’s studio in the Arcisstraße. Courbet’s obvious influence is proved by this portrait from 1869 of the outstanding exponent of Hungarian plein-air painting. The portrait, painted with energetic brushstrokes and a reduced colour scheme, demonstrates the young Leibl’s ability to capture the character.

Ferenc Tóth

Catalogue entry

The international exhibition in Munich in 1869 brought Gustave Courbet enormous international acclaim. The German public ― not least, Wilhelm Leibl, a student at the local academy ― welcomed the seven works on show with hearty admiration. The young painter met Courbet on several occasions during the Frenchman’s stay in the Bavarian capital, and witnessed at first hand the dynamic, almost fevered tempo with which the older master applied pigment to canvas. Leibl produced this portrait of Pál Szinyei Merse, his friend and fellow student at the Munich Academy, in just a couple of hours, working under the spell of Courbet’s influence. He painted it directly onto the canvas, without making any preparatory studies. He executed his experiment with verve and boldness, breaking away from his usual meticulous technique. Leibl highlighted the details in the facial character, but sketched the body rather peremptorily, and the whole painting is dominated by tones of brown. His diffuse yet forceful brushwork was acquired not only from watching Courbet but also from studying Dutch painting, in particular the art of Frans Hals. The work was presented to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1900 by the sitter himself, the Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse.


Peregriny, János, Az Országos Magyar Szépművészeti Múzeum állagai. 3. rész, Új szerzemények. 1.füzet: a, Festmények; b, Festmények módjára kezelt műtárgyak, Országos Magyar Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 1914.

Tóth, Ferenc, Donátorok és képtárépítők. A Szépművészeti Múzeum Modern Külföldi Gyűjteményének kialakulása, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 2012, p. 111., 166.

Múzeumi Kalauz: Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai, Szépművészeti Múzeum – Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest, 2018, p. 235.

Remekművek: Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai 2020/5, Szépművészeti Múzeum – Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest, 2020, p. 28.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

Recommended exhibitions