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Joseph Oppenheimer - Sonntag im Hyde Park: Sunday in Hyde Park

Joseph Oppenheimer

Sonntag im Hyde Park: Sunday in Hyde Park

Oil on panel: 9.9 x 13.3 (in) / 25.1 x 33.7 (cm)
Signed and dated lower right: J. Oppenheimer / 1906; signed and inscribed on the reverse: J. Oppenheimer / Sonntag im Hyde Park

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Wurzburg 1876 - 1966 Montreal

Ref: CA 212


Sonntag im Hyde Park: Sunday in Hyde Park


Signed and dated lower right: J. Oppenheimer / 1906; signed and inscribed on the reverse: J. Oppenheimer / Sonntag im Hyde Park

Oil on panel: 9 7/8 x 13 ¼ in / 25.1 x 33.7 cm

Frame size: 15 ½ x 19 in / 39.4 x 48.3 cm





Private collection, Germany



Originally a private hunting ground acquired by Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536, Hyde Park was opened to the general public in 1637 by Charles I. In 1689 William and Mary bought Nottingham House to the west of the park and renamed it Kensington Palace. To safely travel from their new London home to Westminster they created a processional route through Hyde Park lit by 300 oil lamps, the first road in England to be lit at night. Originally called the route de roi or King’s Road, it later became corrupted to Rotten Row. The Serpentine Lake was created in the 1730s during extensive renovations carried out by Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who also separated 300 acres from the park to form Kensington Gardens. During the nineteenth century the park became a venue for national celebrations including fireworks to mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 and the Great Exhibition in 1851. It also became the setting for political protest; in 1866 Edmund Beales’ Reform League marched on Hyde Park to campaign for the representation of the working class in Parliament and since 1872 people have been allowed to air their views at Speakers Corner. On ‘Women’s Sunday’ in June 1908, the Women’s Social and Political Union marched through the park advocating votes for women in the largest political rally ever to be held in London.


In this delightful oil study of Hyde Park, Joseph Oppenheimer captures the rural idyll at the heart of the city in all its Edwardian elegance. With sumptuous strokes of yellow from rich gold to pale cream, lush emerald to soft muted greens, the artist records the open space in dappled sunlight, highlighting the curves of individual leaves as well as broad patches of warmth on the grass between trees. The exquisite light illuminates the opulent finery of the bustling social scene, drawing our attention to details of immaculate dress; the sleek, dark figure of a man in top hat and tail coat leaning again his cane and the seated figures of women in high-collared white and pastel-coloured dresses with large hats and parasols. Oppenheimer’s swift, impressionistic technique captures his fashionable subject with equal style and grace.


A precocious talent, Oppenheimer began his formal artistic training at the age of fifteen at the private school of Conrad Fehr, before being old enough to be admitted to the Munich Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1893. He went on to study in Italy and painted in Rome what he described as his ‘first impressionist painting.’ Oppenheimer had many opportunities to see works of the French impressionists and in his ‘alla prima’ approach and choice of contemporary subject matter, the artist aligned himself with the new movement and their mode of plein air painting. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Oppenheimer embarked on a grand tour of the Middle East with his uncle, before visiting London for the first time in 1898, via Amsterdam. In August 1902 Oppenheimer moved to London more permanently, from March 1905 until the end of 1908, renting a studio at The Pheasantry, 152 King’s Road, Chelsea, which became the setting and subject for several interior scenes.[1] The artist was already a member of the Chelsea and the St John’s Wood Arts Clubs and is known to have socialised with Solomon J Solomon, who co-founded the New English Art Club in 1886. In 1906, the year in which Hyde Park was painted, Oppenheimer was involved in the founding of the Modern Portrait Painter’s Society, with whom he exhibited the following year.


From 1906 while continuing to paint portrait commissions, Oppenheimer focussed more on landscape painting. Hélène Sicotte suggests ‘the English feeling for nature as well as his 1906 engagement to Fanny Sternfeld, his second cousin and long time love, may have been the impetus for this “return” to landscape painting. One has only to read his letters to his fiancée to see how love and nature intertwined at this point in the painter’s mind, thereby inducing him to a more lyrical approach to art.’[2] Oppenheimer painted this glorious study of elegant figures in Hyde Park at the same time as scenes of Henley Regatta and records, as Sicotte describes, ‘a new lightness of form, sweepingness of touch and brightness of colour that, when totally incorporated, produced pictures full of life and charm. In its treatment of sky, cloud and foliage, this manner evokes Constable. Yet, a closer study of these landscapes may prove that Oppenheimer had also retained something of the art of Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), whose baroque frescoes in the Residence of Wurzburg, he had often studied and sketched. Painted directly from nature (usually on small wood panels), many then reinterpreted for the canvas in his studio, the Henley scenes not merely reproduce the fleeting aspects of nature, but succeed in expressing the painter’s joy of being in nature at this given moment of his life.’[3]


The work of Joseph Oppenheimer can be seen in the following public UK collections: V&A Museum of Childhood; Balliol College, University of Oxford; Ben Uri Gallery & Museum; Hunterian Museum. The Oppenheimer-Prager Museum at Dayspring, St-Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada opened in 2015.




[1] Oppenheimer obtained the studio from Francis Howard an American painter and co-founder of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. See Hélène Sicotte, ‘Biographical Outline’, Joseph Oppenheimer 1876-1966, Life and work, Donat Verlag, Bremen, 1998, p.28.

[2] Ibid., p.32.

[3] Ibid., pp.32-33.


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