* 1802 Pirmasens
† 1869 München
Heinrich Bürkel, born in Pirmasens in 1802, initially completed an apprenticeship as a merchant before he moved to Munich in 1822, in order to become a painter. As he was refused admission to the Academy of Fine Arts, Heinrich Bürkel pursued his dream to become a painter as autodidact by copying works from the Old Masters and Dutch artists at the Munich Pinacotheca. In 1823 he was one of the founding members of Kunstverein München (Munich Artist Association), which had its premises in the arcades of the Hofgarten (Court Garden). This association, founded in opposition to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, soon became a vital part of the Munich art scene, which provided impetus to the development of art in the 19th century far beyond the city limits. Even though he had never been a member of the academy, Heinrich Bürkel‘s accomplishments in landscape- and genre painting made him a precursor of the Munich School.
"Bürkel‘s pictures were quite sought-after in Germany and abroad even during his lifetime. Among the buyers we find Tolstoi, Adalbert Stifter and the House of Habsburg. Bürkel‘s works were not popular for their undisputed artistic quality but for his gift in telling stories and anecdotes. His paintings are so appealing, because the anecdote did not end in itself with Bürkel but always remained subject to an observation of nature‘s beauty and the overall pictorial atmosphere.“ (Quote from: Fritz Aigner, Maler am Chiemsee, Prien 1983, p. 66)
Heinrich Bürkel traveled to Italy, at times for longer stays, on several occasions. He went to Rome, the Roman Campagna and other places in 1827, 1830-1832, 1838 and in 1853-1854. He strolled through the landscape of his adopted home of Upper Bavaria and the Austrian alpine upland, capturing the motifs he found on numerous paintings and drawings. He sold many of his works with great success, collectors came from all over Europe and even from North America. In 1862 Heinrich Bürkel showed his works at the world fair in London, in 1867 he participated in the expo in Paris. Heinrich Bürkel‘s oeuvre comprises more than 1,000 oil paintings and over 6,000 drawings. During his lifetime Heinrich Bürkel received many honors that deliver proof of his importance for romanticist and Biedermeiern painting. In 1843 Heinrich Bürkel became honorary member of the art academies in Dresden and Vienna. In 1858 he was appointed honorary member of the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, an institution he had rejected thirty years earlier as a student. In 1869 Heinrich Bürkel died in his studio in Munich after a long illness.