Anton Romako’s painting of “Admiral Tegetthoff in the Naval Battle of Lissa” is now celebrated as a visionary work, and is part of the canon of European art of the 19th century. This richly illustrated book traces the history of the picture and places it in the historical, military, and artistic context of its age.
“Admiral Tegetthoff in the Naval Battle of Lissa” now seems amazingly modern, but although today we can appreciate it as a masterpiece, it was almost universally rejected and mocked when it was first shown at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna in the summer of 1882.
Presupposing the public’s knowledge of what had actually happened at this naval skirmish, and in particular of the decisive ramming maneuver performed by the Austrian battleship, the painter abandoned all the conventions of historical battle painting, shifting the dramatic tension of events firmly onto the imagination of the viewer.
This results in a fundamental transformation. The picture is no longer a report of the historical event in itself, but rather depicts the feelings of the protagonists at this particular moment. Romako’s “Admiral Tegetthoff in the Naval Battle of Lissa” can be considered a legitimate precursor of our modern narrative techniques which involve a high level of suspense. His painting style however, was also to be a role model for the Austrian Expressionists, such as Oskar Kokoschka.
In order to present the revolutionary concept of the painting, this richly illustrated book casts light on the historical, military, and artist context of the age and of Romako’s œuvre.