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Listening Fauns

before 1899

oil on panel, in its original frame by Hans Irlbacher, Munich, after a design by the artist

91.5 x 84 cm
framed 119 x 108 cm

before 1899

oil on panel, in its original frame by Hans Irlbacher, Munich, after a design by the artist

91.5 x 84 cm
framed 119 x 108 cm

Listening Fauns is a masterpiece by Franz von Stuck first exhibited at the Met’s influential 1909 German contemporary art exhibition. Its first owner was Hugo Reisinger, founder of the namesake museum at Harvard University. It was acquired from Nicholas Hall by the Dallas Museum of Art.

Signed ‘FRANZ / STUCK’, lower right


with Galerie Heinemann, Munich, 1899 (inv. 4612), acquired directly from the artist, 9 August 1899

Hugo Reisinger (1856-1914), New York, 14 August 1899 (until 1909, not included in his estate sale)

Edward A. Faust (1868-1936), St. Louis, 1919

Colonel and Mrs. S.D. Slaughter, Kansas City, probably early 1960s

thence by descent to grandsons of above, Kansas City


New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Exhibition of Contemporary German Art, 4 January – 22 February 1909

Boston, Copley Society of Boston, Contemporary German Art, March 1909

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Contemporary German Paintings and Sculpture, 6 April – 2 May 1909

Dallas, The Dallas Art Association, First Annual Exhibition – Contemporary International Art, 18 – 27 November 1919


Fritz von Ostini, ‘Franz Stuck’, Die Kunst für Alle, Munich, 1904, vol. 9, p. 38, reproduced (as Belauscht).

Christian Brinton, ‘German Painting of To-Day’, Scribner’s Magazine, New York City, February 1909, vol. XLV, no. 2, reproduced p. 141.

Paul Clemen, ed., Exhibition of Contemporary German Art, Berlin, 1909, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, exh. cat., p. 62, reproduced (unnumbered plate).

Paul Clemen, ed., Exhibition of Contemporary German Art, Berlin, 1909, Art Institute of Chicago, exh. cat., p. 62, reproduced (unnumbered plate).

Christian Brinton, ‘The Collection of Huge Reisinger – I. German and American Pictures’, The International Studio, New York, August 1909, vol. XXXVIII, No. 150, pp. 29-38, reproduced (titled Listening Fauns).

First Annual Exhibition – Contemporary International Art, Dallas, 1919, exh. cat. no. 94.

Heinrich Voss, Franz von Stuck 1863-1928, Werkkatalog der Gemälde mit einer Einführung in seinen Symbolismus, Munich, 1973, no. 245 /41, reproduced (as Belauscht, ca. 1902).

Matthias Vogel, Melusine – das lässt aber tief blicken. Studien zur Gestalt der Wasserfrau in dichterischen und künstlerischen Zeugnissen des 19. Jahrhunderts, Europäische Hochschulschriften, Series XXVIII: Kunstgeschichte, CI, Bern, 1989, p. 51.


Franz von Stuck’s painting Listening Fauns exemplifies the high standing that contemporary German art enjoyed in America in the years around 1900. After its completion in 1899, the work entered the collection of Hugo Reisinger (1856-1914). Reisinger was one of the leading collectors and advocates of contemporary German art in America and the principal sponsor of the Germanic Museum, founded in 1903 on the Harvard campus and later renamed the Busch-Reisinger Museum.[1] Upon his death, the painting entered an equally prominent collection, that of Reisinger’s brother-in-law Edward A. Faust (1868-1936) in St. Louis.

Ranking first in every respect – at least in my view – is Munich as a center of the arts. Following Lenbach’s death in 1904 it is Franz von Stuck who outshines all others in the esteem of Bavarian artists, if not all German artists. Hugo Reisinger, 1907.

Stuck had a virtually unrivaled ability to inspire artists of his own generation and younger artists through his innovative pictorial imagery. Classical mythology was his alibi for an explicit treatment of sensually and erotically charged themes that would otherwise have fallen victim to censorship. Mythological and allegorical subjects had become a treasure trove for painters of this generation and even spilled over into lower art forms such as kitsch painting. Art in Munich around 1900 teemed with nymphs, centaurs, fauns and satyrs, prompting a Berlin satirical magazine to report: Oh what halcyon days these were, when every man still had his horses’ or goats’ legs! Thank you, master-painters, for making these times come alive again.[2] Stuck, however, was given to developing new and often erotically charged pictorial inventions drawn from ancient sources and entirely in keeping with the recent findings of psychoanalysis, rendering the unconscious visible. In this he differed from Arnold Böcklin, for example, whose interest focused on other aspects of ancient subject matter.

Fauns and nymphs already appear in Stuck’s early work and preoccupy him later in the years around 1911 (see Voss, catalogue raisonné, 378/42, 379/43, 380/44). They fight, love, lust, listen and make music. The viewer is invited to engage with the painter’s creative fantasies which revolve around the interplay between the sexes and exemplify the opposing natures of the Apollonian and the Dionysian inherent in every human being.

The nymph is seated on a rock beside a spring. The brightness of her figure is set against the dark background of a rocky cave. She is intent on her lyre playing and has not yet noticed the presence of two fauns, creatures from the entourage of the demigod Bacchus, who have been attracted by her playing. One has installed itself comfortably on the rock above her while the head of a second figure emerges against the skyline, creeping up with rolling eyes and an ugly glint as it leers through the grass. What is about to happen? Stuck has set the stage and the rest is left to the viewer’s imagination.

Stuck understood painting and frame as an aesthetic unity and began very early on to design the frames for his paintings himself. Many of his frame designs were realized by the Munich cabinet-maker and framer Georg Oberndorfer while others, such as the present frame, were custom-made after his designs by Hans Irlbacher.

About the artist

Stuck trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and went on to earn his living as a scene painter, illustrator and caricaturist. He achieved early fame as a founding member of the Munich Secession in 1892, rejecting the conservative policies of mainstream academic painting. He was able to exercise increasing influence in official artistic circles. Only three years later, in 1895, his appointment as professor at the Munich Academy elevated his social status. He was also appointed to the board of a new, innovative artists’ circle titled Pan. The Villa Stuck, built in 1897-98 according to his own plans, fulfilled his personal ideal to create a Gesamtkunstwerk and is unique in its symbiosis of painting, sculpture and architecture.

In 1899 when Stuck completed the present painting, he was already a feted and financially successful artist seeing his national and international careers advance side-by-side. At the first Secession exhibition in 1893, he showed the iconic painting Sin, a key example of German Symbolist painting. That same year, he was awarded a gold medal at the Chicago World’s Fair. A solo exhibition at the 1909 Venice Biennale followed.

Stuck’s triumph, however, soon began to fade in the shadow of French modernism. Only in recent decades has attention again begun to focus on nineteenth century artistic output in the German-speaking countries. This has triggered a new appreciation of Stuck’s grandiose pictorial inventions and recognition of his work as a teacher to artists as diverse as Josef Albers (1888-1976), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Paul Klee (1879-1940).[3] In 2013, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle staged the first monographic exhibition in the United States dedicated to Stuck’s work.

Fig. 1 Anders Zorn, Portrait of Hugo Reisinger, 1907. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 1957.4.3
Fig. 2 Reisinger Mansion, 993 Fifth Avenue, ca. 1910, Photograph by Wurts Bros

The provenance of Listening Fauns, a chapter in American collecting history

Hugo Reisinger (1856-1914; fig. 1), the first owner of the painting, was a German-born banker and eminent collector who lived at 993 Fifth Avenue in New York City, a splendid French-Gothic style mansion deemed ‘one of the finest on the avenue’ by the New York Times (fig. 2). He bought the painting directly from Stuck for 9,000 marks on August 14, 1899. The purchase was arranged by the renowned Munich gallery Heinemann. In their stock ledger, the work is listed as ‘Lauschende Faune’ (Heinemann 4612).[4] Reisinger married the eighteen-year-old Edmee Busch (1871-1955) in 1890. Adolphus Busch, her father, who had also emigrated from Germany, was a brewery baron and co-owner of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. In 1911-12, Reisinger and his father-in-law Adolphus Busch were major sponsors of the Germanic Museum located on the campus of Harvard University. Now called the Busch-Reisinger Museum,[5] it is the only museum in North America dedicated to the study and critical understanding of the arts of the German-speaking countries.[6]

Fig. 3 Listening Fauns in ‘The Exhibition of Contemporary German Art’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1909, photograph

Like his father-in-law, Hugo Reisinger was interested in German-American cultural exchange.[7] He was responsible for organizing the ‘Exhibition of Contemporary German Art’ which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on January 4, 1909 and subsequently traveled to the Copley Society, Boston and the Art Institute of Chicago. Reisinger loaned the present painting to the exhibition. Attendance was good and critics responded positively. An installation photograph of the Metropolitan Museum exhibition (fig. 3) shows Listening Fauns hanging to the left of Stuck’s large-format painting Inferno, which the Metropolitan Museum was fortunate to acquire in 2017 (inv. 2017.250).[8]

Since Listening Fauns does not appear in the catalogue of Reisinger’s estate sale in 1917,[9] it is likely to have passed into the possession of Reisinger’s brother-in-law Edward A. Faust (1868-1936) of St. Louis, Missouri, somewhat earlier. The Faust family was also connected by marriage to the Busch family. The Fausts were art lovers and collectors with a particular liking for Old Masters.[10] Their mansion in St. Louis provided a highly appropriate setting. Listening Faunswas exhibited at the ‛Contemporary International Art Exhibition’ in Dallas in 1919, where the name Edward A. Faust was given as its owner. Anna and Edward Faust died in 1936. After that date, the painting vanished from public view. Only recently has information about its whereabouts come to light. It was probably acquired in the early 1960s by Colonel and Mrs. S. D. Slaughter of Kansas City, Missouri, in whose family it has remained until today.❖

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