Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

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Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (January 7, 1800 in Hanau, Germany – February 26, 1882 in Frankfurt am Main) was a German painter who is often regarded as the first Jewish painter of the modern era. His work was informed by his cultural and religious roots at a time when many of his German Jewish contemporaries chose to convert. Oppenheim is considered by the scholar Ismar Schorsch to be in sympathy with the ideals of the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, because he remained “fair to the present” without denying his past.

Oppenheim was born to Orthodox Jewish parents at Hanau, Germany in 1800; he died at Frankfurt am Main in 1882. His niece was the wife of student and fellow painter Benjamin Prins, Rosa Benari.

He received his first lessons in painting from Conrad Westermayr, in Hanau, and entered the Munich Academy of Arts at the age of seventeen. Later he visited Paris, where Jean-Baptiste Regnault became his teacher, and then went to Rome, where he studied with Bertel Thorwaldsen, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, and Friedrich Overbeck. There he studied the life of the Jewish ghetto and made sketches of the various phases of its domestic and religious life, in preparation for several large canvases which he painted upon his return to Germany. In 1825 he settled at Frankfurt, and shortly after exhibited his painting David Playing Before Saul, to see which a great number of admirers from all parts of Europe visited his studio. In 1832, at the instance of Goethe, Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach conferred upon him the honorary title of professor.

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