Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

Coastline of Capri,

c. 1910,

oil on canvas

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (Hadamar 1851-1913 Capri)
"Coastline of Capri"
circa 1910
oil on canvas
40,5 x 148 cm
signed lower right:  "Dfnbch"
"Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach was arguably one of the most eccentric artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The painter, born in the small town of Hadamar in 1851, studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts from 1872 and caused a sensation in the Munich area by the 1880s at the latest. Typhoid fever caused him to refrain from partaking of alcohol and tobacco and subsequently also from consuming meat. This made him an eccentric at that time and brought with it the unflattering name 'Kohlrabi Apostle.' Diefenbach, the barefoot vegetarian, dressed in a robe and propagated free-love relationships and nudity early on.

In 1885 he founded his first commune in the Bavarian quarry Höllriegelskreuth. There he came into dispute with the authorities because of the naked sunbathing of the community members, which led to the first nudist trial in Germany.

His precarious financial situation prompted Diefenbach to accept the invitation from the Austrian Art Association (Kunstverein) and to go to Vienna. His exhibition there ended in a fiasco for him because the Kunstverein embezzled funds. The conflict drove him to the brink of his existence, and Diefenbach became penniless and homeless. Nevertheless, he stayed in Vienna and founded the rural commune 'Himmelhof' in Ober-St.-Veit in 1897. The provocative lifestyle and the authoritarian manner in which Diefenbach ruled over the members of his community led to tensions, and the commune went bankrupt in 1899. 

Ultimately, after a short stay in Trieste, the artist landed on the island of Capri. He stayed there until the end of his life without making the artistic breakthrough he had longed for."  D


Jack Daulton

The Daulton Collection

Los Altos Hills, California