Friedrich Georg Weitsch’s Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)

Meet the Artists of Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture

A portrait of a man sitting.

Friedrich Georg Weitsch, Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), 1806, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 36 3/8 in., Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Photo: bpk Bildagentur / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany / Klaus Goeken / Art Resource, NY.

About this Artwork

Weitsch painted Humboldt’s portrait shortly after his return to Europe from the United States. He captures the Prussian naturalist’s ease in familiar surroundings, seated outdoors with his plant specimens, travel journals, and his favorite barometer. During a five-year trip across South America and Mexico, Humboldt began gathering the data and specimens that fueled his writing. He brought together his ideas in a multi-volume book he titled Kosmos (in English, Cosmos), which became an international best-seller and made Humboldt one of the best known and widely admired public figures in the world.