(May 28, 1840 - October 3, 1884) was a 19th century Austrian academic history painter, designer, and decorator; most well known for his influence on Gustav Klimt and other Austrian artists, but in his own era considered an important artist himself and was a celebrity figure in the high culture of Vienna, attended with almost cult-like adulation.
Makart was the son of a chamberlain at the Mirabell Palace, born in the former residence of the prince-archbishops of Salzburg. Initially, he received his training in painting at the Vienna Academy between 1850 and 1851 from Johann Fischbach. While in the Academy, German art was under the rule of a classicism, which was entirely intellectual and academice clear and precise drawing, sculpturesque modelling, and pictorial erudition were esteemed above all. Makart, who was a poor draughtsman, but who had a passionate and sensual love of color, was impatient to escape the routine of art school drawing. For his fortune, he was found by his instructors to be devoid of all talent and forced to leave the Vienna Academy.
He went to Munich, and after two years of independent study attracted the attention of Karl Theodor von Piloty, under whose guidance, between 1861 and 1865 he developed his painting style. During these years, Makart also travelled to London, Paris and Rome to further his studies. The first picture he painted under Piloty, Lavoisier in Prison, though it was considered timid and conventional, attracted attention by its sense of color.
In his next work, The Knight and the Water Nymphs, he first displayed the decorative qualities to which he afterwards sacrificed everything else in his work. His fame became established in the next year, with two works, Modern Amoretti and The Plague in Florence. His painting Romeo and Juliet was soon after bought by the Austrian emperor for the Vienna Museum, and Makart was invited to come to Vienna by the aristocracy.
The prince Von Hohenlohe provided Makart with an old foundry at the Gusshausstraße 25 to use as a studio. He gradually turned it into an impressive place full of sculptures, flowers, musical instruments, requisites and jewellery that he used to create classical settings for his portraits, mainly of women. Eventually his studio looked like a salon and became a social meeting point in Vienna. Cosima Wagner described it as a "wonder of decorative beauty, a sublime lumber-room". His luxurious studio served as a model for a great many upper middle-class living rooms.
The opulent, semi-public spaces of the Makart atelier were the scene of a recurring rendezvous between the artist and his public. The artist became the mediator between different levels of society: he created a socially ambiguous sphere in which nobility and bourgeoisie could encounter one another in mutual veneration of the master, and aestheticized the burgeoning self-awareness of the bourgeoisie by means of historical models drawn from the world of the aristocracy. In this way, an artist like Makart lived out the image that high society had created of him. Makart is considered by many as being the first art star, referred to by contemporaries an "artist prince" (Malerferst) in the tradition of Rubens.
Makart became the acknowledged leader of the artistic life of the Vienna, which in the 1870s passed through a period of feverish activity, the chief results of which are the sumptuously decorated public buildings of the Ringstraße. He not only practised painting, but was also an interior designer, costume designer, furniture designer, and decorator, and his work decorated most of the public spaces of the era. His work engendered the term "Makartstil", or "Makart style", which completely characterized the era.
In 1879, Makart had designed a pageant organised to celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary of the Imperial couple, emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria he designed, single-handed, the costumes, scenic setting, and triumphal cars. This became known as the "Makart-parade", and had given the people of Vienna the chance to dress up in historical costumes and be transported back into the past for a few hours. At the head of the parade was a float for artists, led by Makart on a white horse. His festivals became an institution in Vienna which lasted up until the 1960s. In the same year as the first parade he became a Professor at the Vienna Academy.
Makart's painting The Entry of Charles V into Antwerp caused some controversy, because Charles V was depicted arriving in a procession surrounded by nude virgins; the offense was the mistaken idea that the nudes had no place in the modern scene. In the United States, the painting fell under the proscription of Anthony Comstock, which secured Makart's fame there. The American public desired at once to see what Comstock was persecuting, so they could tell whether he was acting correctly or in error.
Salzburg's Makart Square, or Makartplatz, was named after the painter.