Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) holds around 50 works by the Swiss painter Anton Graff. This studio exhibition features a representative selection of paintings which provide an overview of his work as a portrait artist. In 1765 he submitted a self-portrait in support of his application for the position of court painter to the Elector of Saxony. In 1766 he was awarded the lucrative contract and became a member of the Dresden Art Academy. Graff spent the rest of his life at the Saxon court. Numerous commissions testify to his great popularity as a portraitist.
On the one hand, Graff produced the official, late baroque state portraits of the Saxon rulers, while on the other he won numerous portrait commissions from the aspiring bourgeoisie animated by the ideas of the Enlightenment. Contemporaries claimed that Graff could gaze into the “essence of the soul” and that he painted “not the body but the spirit”.
In his self-portraits he documented not only his own mental and physical condition but also the state of his artistic development. The two self-portraits which depict him at the ages of 29 and 58 have recently been restored: after cleaning and reconstruction where necessary, numerous details can once again be appreciated and scrutinised.