The Skizzenbuch, a delightful early work by Franz Kugler (1808-1858), has recently been added to the University Library’s collections (8002.c.43). Franz Kugler is mainly known for his contributions to art history. His main work the Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (Acton.c.50.506), first published in 1842, is one of the earliest art survey texts with a global perspective. Kugler was a key figure in the development of art history as an academic discipline, and one of the first persons to hold a chair in art history at a university.
The Skizzenbuch however, published in 1830 by G. Reimer in Berlin when Kugler was only twenty-two, demonstrates his talents as a poet, composer and artist.
In the Skizzenbuch Kugler published a collection of his poems, a few of which he set to music; one ‘Rudelsburg: an der Saale hellem Strande …’ became a popular song. In the Skizzenbuch this poem is accompanied by an engraving by Kugler’s artist friend Robert Reinick. Kugler’s poems are mainly observations on his travels, recalling people and landscapes he had encountered. Some describe paintings he encountered, some are addressed to fellow artists such as Schinkel or members of the young artists’ circle in Berlin, others deal with architecture and buildings. There is also a drinking song for students. Kugler also set to music poems by Ludwig Uhland, Heinrich Heine, Clemens Brentano, Wilhelm Wackernagel and the dedicatee Adelbert von Chamisso.
Kugler drew two self-portraits for the work which adorn the front and back covers. They are full length portraits showing the artist in cloak, sturdy shoes and hat, clutching a walking stick in one hand, holding a portfolio of drawings in the other, and carrying a satchel on his back. The front cover shows a rear view of Kugler, while on the back cover he stands facing us. In addition to the cover he provided drawings for the engraved title page and for some of the accompanying plates. The two plates of “arabesques” in particular show Kugler’s inventiveness.
But it is the combination of the poetic, musical and visual elements which make this book such a joy to handle and read. Franz Kugler’s Skizzenbuch is a wonderful example of the rich cultural life in Berlin in the first decades of the 19th century.