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Title An Offer of Marriage
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Kunkler, Jean Jules Adrien (Swiss painter, 1829–1866)
Date 1855 (dated)
Signed yes

This painting is a fine example of Kunkler's small oeuvre, mainly constituted of landscape and genre scene such as the present one, and mostly owned by private collectors. This work shows an offer in marriage: present are the father, the daughter and the potential husband. The interest in rustic subject matter combined with a free realistic style is characteristic of the Realist movement which emerged in France in the 1840s. This painting is also a good example of the type of subject produced by the artists of the Düsseldorf school, influenced by the Biedermeier imagery.

Jean Jules Adrien Kunkler was born in Morges on Lake Geneva near Lausanne. He first studied in Geneva under the guidance of J.-L. Lugardon (1801-1884) and C. Humbert (1813-1881) and between 1850 and 1852 at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf with C.F. Sohn (1805-1867). In the following years he travelled around Savoy, the Balneic Islands and Spain. He mainly produced genre and landscape paintings.

Current Accession Number 1609-1869
Inscription fron lr 'A. Kunkler 1855'
Subject everyday life; interior; animal (dog); figure
Measurements 38.1 x 45.7 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend 1868.
Publications Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 , London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 59, cat. no. 128; Börsch-Supan, H. et al., Lexikon der Düsseldorfer Malerschule 1819-1918, vol. II, Munich, 1998, p. 296, fig. 399.

This scene is set in the western European region of Savoy where Kunkler stayed in 1854. The Swiss-born artist travelled extensively in Savoy and Spain and was a keen observer of local customs. Here he shows the cottage interior in great detail, with its furniture, pots and pans and fresh vegetables for cooking. The scene is also one of awkward tension, with an unsuitable man presenting himself for marriage to a sceptical young woman. The elder man, presumably the woman's father, adds an element of ambiguity to the narrative as it is difficult to tell whether or not he supports the proposal.

This painting was bequeathed by the Rev. Townshend who owned a large collection of 19th-century landscape and genre paintings. It is likely that Townshend, who resided part of the year in Lausanne, acquired this painting directly from the artist. 'Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.' See Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1990, p.xix. Listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of his villa in Lausanne (V&A R/F MA/1/T1181) as 'Oil on millboard. An offer of marriage (Savoy). By Adrian Kunkler. In frame. Signed. Swiss. Dated 1855'.

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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