Tina Blau was the only Jewish woman artist of her generation to be recognized by her peers. Encouraged by her family to pursue art, Blau made her artistic debut in 1867 and her paintings were included in the 1873 Viennese World Exhibition. She studied with various artists and traveled to Italy, the Netherlands, France, and an artist colony in Hungary. She returned to Vienna in 1875 and shared a studio with the landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler until 1879. Blau rose to international fame with shows in Vienna in 1882 and Paris in 1883, and she was praised for her modern and innovative uses of light and color.
Early Life and Family
“If you really want to become an artist, you have to learn to surmount problems,” Simon Blau (n.d.–1880) wrote in 1861 to his sixteen-year-old homesick daughter Tina, who was on a study trip in Transylvania. (Modry, 1935). Tina (Regina Leopoldine) Blau, born in Vienna on November 15, 1845, not only overcame many obstacles but was the only Jewish woman artist in her generation to be professionally recognized.
Tina Blau owed her successful career partly to her father, a Prague physician who lived out his own artistic dreams through his daughter. He provided all the support necessary for the young student to pursue her auspicious artistic talent and ambitions, supporting her financially, providing her first teachers and encouraging her.
Art Education and Career
Like other women artists of her generation, Tina Blau was denied an art education and had to take private lessons. Her first private teacher was the Hungarian Antal Hanély, followed in 1860 by the landscape painter August Schäffer (1833–1916) and in 1865 by lessons at the drawing school of Joseph Aigner (1818–1886). In 1869 she continued to Munich to pursue her studies with the historical painter Wilhelm Lindenschmitt (1829–1895) until 1873. After this artistic training, Blau traveled in Italy, the Netherlands and France, spending the summers of 1873 and 1874 in the Hungarian artist colony at Szolnok. Back in Vienna, she renewed her friendship with the landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler and shared a studio with him until 1879.
In 1883 Blau returned to Munich and, after converting to Protestantism, married the painter Heinrich Lang (1838–1891). The couple had no children. After his death in 1891, she resettled in Vienna. At that time Tina Blau was already a well-recognized artist, decorated with several awards.
As a result of her father’s perseverance, she made her artistic debut in 1867/68 at the Österreichischen Kunstverein. In 1873 her paintings were already being shown at the Viennese World Exhibition. However, her first great success came when she exhibited “Spring in the Prater” in 1882 in Vienna and in 1883 in Paris. While in Vienna the painting caused protests and was at first rejected at the Künstlerhaus, in Paris Blau was awarded an honorable mention for the same work.
Lack of recognition and legacy
Tina Blau has always been associated with the landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler (1842–1892). Contemporary critics mistakenly described their relationship as that of teacher and student, a categorization Blau vehemently denied. (Blau, 1900). According to contemporary male opinion, a woman artist could not create without male direction. For example, the art critic Arthur Roessler, while praising Blau’s talent, nevertheless maintained that her paintings were only one example of the fact that a “woman does not have her own art” (Roessler 1922). Real artistic creativity was denied to her and her fellow women artists.
Only a rare reviewer aptly noted that Tina Blau had still not been fully appreciated: “She is the first among us who saw and made light and air modern at a time when even our most famous and well-known landscape painters stuck to certain traditional coloristic formulas” (Seligmann 1909). Tina Blau definitely represented her own innovative position within Austrian landscape painting in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century. She painted in the so-called Austrian Stimmungsimpressionismus (atmospheric Impressionism), influenced by Dutch landscape painting and by the Barbizon school, whose works she had first seen at the Munich exhibition in 1869. Equally important for her artistic development was her encounter in Italy with the light-colors created by sunlight. (Jesina 1996). Tina Blau felt very strongly drawn to nature, as she wrote: “I use this studio, summer and winter. It enables me to live lonesome and remote in close contact with nature that I love so much” (Ankwicz 1955, 26061).
Tina Blau died in Vienna on October 31, 1916.
Ankwicz, Alexandra. “Tina Blau, eine österreichische Malerin.” In Frauenbilder aus Österreich: eine Sammlung von zwölf Essays. Vienna: 1955, 243–271.
Cat. Tina Blau, 1845–1916: Eine Wiener Malerin. Österreichische Galerie im Oberen Belvedere, Vienna: 1971.
Cat. Tina Blau: 1845–1916. Ed. by G. Tobias Natter; Claus Jesina. Salzburg: Verl. Galerie Welz, 1999.
Cat. Pleinair: die Landschaftsmalerin Tina Blau, 1845–1916. Ed. by Tobias Natter. Jewish Museum, Vienna: 1996.
Ebenstein, Zdravka. Tina Blau 1845–1916: eine Wiener Malerin. Selbstverlag der Österreichischen Galerie, Vienna: 1971.
Idem. “Der Szolnoker Aufenthalt der Malerin Tina Blau und seine Voraussetzungen. Mitteilungen der Österreichischen.” Galerie 18 (1974) 62, 97–105.
Estate Ankwichz-Kleehoven. Österreichische Galerie, Vienna: 1955, Inv. No. 2606.
Harriman, Helga H. “Olga Wisinger-Florian and Tina Blau: Painters in ‘fin de siècle’ Vienna. Woman’s Art Journal 10 (1989/1990) 2: 23–28.
Jesina, Claus: “Von der Auswirkung des südlichen Lichts.” Cat. Pleinair: die Landschaftsmalerin Tina Blau, 1845–1916. Ed. by Tobias Natter. Jewish Museum, Vienna: 1996: 93.
Knechtl, Stefanie. “Schindler und Tina Blau: Beziehungen und Abhängigkeiten.” Vienna, Hochsch. für Angewandte Kunst, Dipl.-Arb., 1989.
Letter Tina Blau to August Schäffer, February 14, 1900, quoted after: cat. Vienna 1996: 171–173.
Modry, Artur. “Tante Tina.” Österreichische Kunst 6/3 (Vienna 1935): 8.
Roessler, Arthur. Schwarze Fahnen: Ein Kuenstlertotentanz. Vienna/Leipzig, 1922: 63–65.
Roser-De Palma, Annelie. “Die Landschafterin Tina Blau.” Diss., Vienna: 1971.
Seligmann, Adalbert F. “...noch lange nicht genug gewürdigt wird, das ist, daß Tina Blau die erste war, die bei uns Licht und Luft modern gesehen und modern gemacht hat, zu einer Zeit, wo unsere berühmtesten und bekanntesten Landschaftsmaler noch ganz in gewissen traditionell-koloristischen Formeln steckten.” Neue Wiener Zeitung, November 4, 1909: 1–3.
Stelzer, Janely. “Die holländischen Arbeiten im Werk von Tina Blau.” Vienna: Univ., Dipl.-Arb., 1999.