From Hof to Rome – the Artist Johann Christian Reinhart
A son of Deacon Peter Johann Reinhart, Johann Christian was born in Hof on 24th January 1761. His father, who came from an old family of craftsmen, died quite early in 1764, so that Johann Christian and his brother Amandus were brought up by their mother. They were, as he later said, “very wild boys”.
Johann Christian Reinhart attended the Gymnasium, Hof’s grammar school, from September 1768 to April 1778. One of his teachers recognized the boy’s talent for drawing and encouraged him in this. Like his father, Johann Christian started to study theology because life as an artist seemed too insecure. However he turned more and more to art and was not hindered in any way by his mother, even though she would have preferred his to stick to divinity. He started to study under Adam Friedrich Oeser, the Director of the Art Academy in Leipzig. Reinhart began with systematic exercises, drawing plaster figures and natural objects to get practice in the anatomy of humans and animals.
In 1783 he moved to Dresden to further his studies. He concentrated more and more on landscape painting, at which he was more adept and which was to form the main body of his work as an artist.
On the death of his mother in 1784, he spent a short time in Hof. Thereafter, back in Dresden, he would go on long walks in the area around Hof as well as in Thuringia and Bohemia, where he had contact with artists of importance. He returned to Leipzig, where he also mixed with various artists, getting to know Friedrich Schiller in 1785. This friendship lasted all his life. From 1786 he spent three years in Meiningen (Thuringia) at the court of Duke Georg of Meinigen, one of the centres of classicism next to Jena and Weimar.
However his great longing, possibly implanted in him by his friend Schiller, was to journey to Italy. Supported by the hereditary Prince of Coburg-Gotha, he got a grant from the Margrave of Ansbach-Bayreuth which enabled him to fulfil his wish. On his way south he passed through Hof one last time in 1789. In December of that year he reached Rome, a gathering place for artists at the time. From there, he travelled all over Italy.
When the Margravate of Ansbach-Bayreuth became part of Prussia, his financial support came to an end in 1791/92. However he was by now obviously in a position to support a family without any outside help: in 1801 he married an Italian Anna Caffo and together they had three children. Paintings, drawings and etchings, of which he made many prints, brought him artistic recognition and financial success. In 1825, probably as a result of his acquaintanceship with King Ludwig I, who was a great admirer of the German-Roman classicist style, the Kingdom of Bavaria granted him a yearly pension, and on 1st November 1839 he was finally appointed “Königlich Bayerischer Hofmaler”, i.e. official court painter, having already received other distinctions from German and Italian academies. On 9th June 1847 Johann Christian Reinhart died in Rome, where he lies buried in the Protestant cemetery. In 1963 the city of Rome honoured him with a memorial plaque on the house he died in.