Emil Fuchs 1866-1929

Emil Fuchs, self portrait 1905, at the open collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Emil Fuchs around 1924 - taken from his autobiography.

Emil Fuchs occurs as the "Beefsteak German" in Tine Cool's book "The five of us in Rome" (1928). He can be identified since he was the neighbour nextdoor who came frying his steaks in the family's kitchen. Albert Zacher's report in the Frankfurter Zeitung 1895 explains that it is indeed Fuchs who lives nextdoor. According to the hard data, Fuchs was in the Villa in 1892/93 and likely he would have stayed till 1897.


Fuchs wrote his biography "With Pencil, Brush and Chisel. The life of an artist" (Putnam NY 1925) and mentions on page 187: "As in the good old days at the Villa Strohl Fern in Rome, I lounged about in the garden (...)". Earlier in the book we find that his 1891 Prix de Rome first sets him in the offical location on Monte Parioli, (p24) (not one of the original seven hills) and then he rents himself "nearby" (p26). 

A nice overview of his life is given by "Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design" by David Bernard Dearinger, National Academy of Design (U.S.). As explained there, Fuchs was apparently diagnosed around 1929 with cancer and a slow painful death, and opted for a quick suicide. It is front page news for the Charlotte Observer, at ebay. There is of course an obituary in the New York Times: "FUCHS LEFT $500,000 AND ART TO PUBLIC". We find this confirmed in the Brooklyn Museum American Painters catalogue: ""Fuchs was hospitalized for cancer surgery in 1928.  He continued to suffer, however, and in early January 1929, he committed suicide in his Hotel des Artistes residence."

Here we find: "Vienna-born American artist EMIL FUCHS (1866-1929) studied in Vienna and at the Royal Academy in London before coming to the U.S. in 1905. A prolific sculptor (Fuchs created a number of medals that remain highly collectible today), he also enjoyed celebrity as a portraitist of English and American "high society" figures." [1905 are winter trips and a full move is only in 1915]

This is the biography at the Tate Gallery: "Austrian sculptor, medallist and painter, born in Vienna. Studied under the sculptor Hellmer at the Vienna Academy, and under Schaper and von Werner at the Academy in Berlin. Won the Rome Prize in 1891 and spent 1891-7 in Rome. Then lived in London 1897-1915, receiving many commissions from society and aristocratic patrons, including Queen Victoria and King Edward VII; designed, among other things, the King Edward VII postage stamps and the Coronation medal. Made portrait busts, medals, statuettes, memorials, etc. First began to work in oil in 1897, under the guidance of Sargent, and subsequently painted many portraits of English and American sitters. First one-man exhibition at the Grafton Galleries, London, 1902. Settled in New York in 1915. Autobiography With Pencil, Brush and Chisel published 1925. Died in New York."

Fuchs was also a brother-in-law of Gustav Freitag. There is mention of a sister Renee.


In the review of his autobiography, his postage stamp got some fun comments in Time magazine (1925). The stamp still got an auction in 2010.

Apparently he also made the death mask of Queen Victoria.  The Metropolitan Museum has a coronation medal and the medal for the American Numismatic Society. The Metropolitan also has photographs - but the one of the artist in his studio is wrongly dated (see also the autobiography).

These are works at the National Portait Gallery, and this page lists some other works, notably in the USA

See this book "The work of Emil Fuchs; illustrating some of his representative paintings, sculpture, medals and studies. Issued on the occasion of an exhibition of his works under the auspices of Messrs. Cartier, February 7th to March 5th,1921. New York city (1921)"

A book on Fuchs and etching. SIMMONS, WILLIAM, Champlain, N.Y.: Winfred Porter Truesdell, 1929. 8 pp., 3 illustrations. Originally published in The Print Connoisseur, 1929. 

A work by Fuchs for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Online details are given in the "sculpture mapping project". It is not clear whether they have included Fuchs's sculpting for the Boer War memorial in Plymouth.

An discussion in a magazine "International Studio".


The Fuchs estate 1880-1931 is managed by the Brooklyn Museum. There is surprising little material from before 1901. Fuchs records are also mentioned in the Brooklyn records at the Smithsonian

Barbara Leoni and Gabriele D'Annunzio

Elvira Fraternali (1862-1949), divorced from Ercole Leoni, had a relationship in 1887-1892 with Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938), at that moment married and just with a third child. He called her "Barbara" so Elvira is also known as Barbara Leoni. Apparently she inspired him to the book "Trionfo della morte". See also his letters to her. 

Because of his infidelity, Elvira broke off the relationship with D'Annunzio, and fled into the arms of ... Emil Fuchs. 

Gabriele Tristano Oppo recently wrote the book "Barbarella" - and on the cover we see her picture, in a pastel by Emil Fuchs.

John Woodhouse in "Defiant Archangel" discusses his portrait of her. (D'Annuzio called himself "Ariel" - and AR.I.E.L now also the name of the database of the Rome library for dannunziana.)

Apparently, the Brooklyn Museum sold off two nudes from the Fuchs estate. Asked, the Museum tells me that they do not know when these pictures were made. The nude painting on the left has a fine frame around it. Why would Fuchs keep that painting in his studio ? The face of the nude on the left looks a bit like the face of the pastel of Elvira. (The painting on the right does not, with its curls.) 

Apparently they lived in the Villa Strohl-Fern. Christine Thomé suggests that D'Annunzio visits at the Villa, referring to a book by Annamaria Andreoli. Thomé mentions the time window 1887-1892 but this does not fit if she joins up with Fuchs after 1892. But D'Annunzio might still have some contact with Fraternali; for example he still writes a letter in 1895. 

Sergio Nasca made film of the affair. The cast includes Emil Fuchs.

PM. Trombadori mentions the period 1880-1884 but then Fuchs would have been 14 -18 and that does not fit. Also Art Renewal has these wrong years. The proper time window for Emil and Elvira is 1892-1897.

Franco di Tizio clarifies that the story for Elvira is rather sad. Ercole Leoni's sexual wanderings gave her a disease so that she no longer could have children. When Fuchs leaves to London in 1897, she stays behind. She adopts a daughter (picture in 1905) but when the girl later discovers that she is only adopted then the daughter leaves her. She has to sell D'Annunzio's letters for cash. Fuchs's autobiography is silent on these things, apparently issues too private.

PM. It is surprising that Fuchs is in the middle between a children's book (as Tine's book was published) and this story.

PM. This is D'Annunzio's mausoleum, the Vittoriale. Film maker Emigholz describes it with horror. D'Annunzio as a "duce" at Fiume.

PM. A note in Dutch with more questions about Emil, Elvira and Gabriele, also presented here.

Relation to "The five of us in Rome"

  • TC1851 is not mentioned by Fuchs in his autobiography. 
  • Fuchs writes in his autobiography about London and regularly meeting Lawrence Alma Tadema. Perhaps he did not know that Tadema  was a distant cousin of TC1851. 
  • TC1851 and Wilhelm Kumm and likely Peterich made a visit to London in 1897. There are no records known whether they visited Fuchs (who moved to London in 1897) or Tadema. 
  • John Woodhouse page 96 states: "Barbara had studied at the Milan Conservatoire and was an accomplished pianist". Was she perhaps the "Russian pianiste" who with her music exercises made it impossible for TC1851 to work ?