With regard to art history, there is nothing that connects Anselm Feuerbach with Hans Purrmann; with regard to their biographies, however, they have much in common. Both were born in Speyer. Its citizens have ensured that their impressive childhood homes can be visited until today.
This young man will make (art) history. But right now, he is standing on a ladder painting a signboard for a tobacco shop. Hans Purrmann hadn’t received any news from Berlin, so he had travelled in frustration to Speyer to his parents in order to help them with their house-painting business. He had handed in four paintings at the “Berlin Secession” but hadn’t received an answer—until the very morning in 1905 which he later recalls in his recordings: “It was a newspaper agent known to be a bit of a character who shouted at me: ‘Come down here! There is a huge article about you in the Frankfurter Zeitung.” So, it was from this newspaper that Purrmann learned that the artists’ association had accepted him; that he was a “new talent.” The signboard from back then might be long gone—another one, though, remains: that of his father of 14 Kleine Greifengasse, saying “Maler- und Tüncher Geschäft” (painter and whitewasher’s company). It still hangs over the courtyard entrance to the craftsman’s house. It has recently even been renovated.
The great painter of classic modernity had been brought up in modest conditions—as is the case with Anselm Feuerbach, who died in 1880, which is the exact same year in which Purrmann was born. With regard to art history, there might be no connection whatsoever between the two, but with regard to their biographies, the connection definitely is there. Both first saw the light of day in Speyer, their parents’ houses are within just a few minutes walking distance. And both painters were at odds with the place of their childhood. “My birth in Speyer has to be considered as a misfortune for me,” Feuerbach (1829-1880), wrote, the father of whom, Joseph Anselm, taught at the “königlich bayerisches Gymnasium” (royal Bavarian grammar school). The city seemed very provincial to him. And Hans Purrmann, too, had distanced himself from Speyer for a long time. In 1932, he had still made a wall-painting for the Town Hall’s council chamber, which disappeared in 1933—behind a swastika flag. After that he moved first to Florence to the Villa Romana, later to France and then to Switzerland, where he died in 1966.