Sunday, 5 March 2017


“To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.” - Sarah Parcak 

Otto Johann Heinrich Heyden (born July 8, 1820 in Ducherow (Vorpommern), Germany, died September 21, 1897 in Göttingen ) was a German painter. He was the son of the preacher Johann Bernhard Heyden and his wife Dorothea, the eldest daughter of the mayor of Gützkow, Johann Balthasar Putter (1751-1818).

He attended the Gymnasium Stralsund and here he finished his high school years in 1894. After this, he began studying theology at Greifswald and Berlin at the request of his parents, but in 1843 he transferred to the Art Academy in Berlin. There he became a pupil of professors Karl Wilhelm Wach and August von Kloeber. With the recommendations of his teachers, Heyden later became a student in the studio of Léon Cogniet in Paris.

From 1850 he lived four years in Italy, mostly in Rome and near Naples . There he also made the preparations for his first major work, “Job, surrounded by his friends” (1855), bought by the Stettiner Museum. He also painted numerous portraits and landscapes. In 1854 he returned to Berlin and settled down as a freelance artist.

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the University of Greifswald, he donated a monumental painting, which shows the founding ceremony in the Greifswald Nikolaikirche and this painting is currently exhibited in the Pommerschen Landesmuseum. During the German-Austrian War of 1866, he moved from historical painting of the remote past to the presentation of current historical events, with several battle paintings executed.

In 1869, Heyden undertook an extensive study trip to and through Egypt, which resulted in a series of pictures depicting the street life of Cairo and of the surrounding countryside. The painting above “Caravan by the Pyramids” is a typical such orientalist work. During the Franco-Prussian War , Heyden was at the headquarters of the V Armeenkorps under Crown Prince Frederick William. As a consequence, during the war, Heyden created many watercolours and portraits of army life and personnel.

Otto Heyden was awarded the Honorary Doctorate by the University of Greifswald in 1854. He was appointed court painter and honoured with the title of Royal Prussian Professor. At the age of 77, Otto Heyden died on 21 September 1897 in Göttingen.

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