Hans Thoma is a solitary figure in German art – essentially a Realist in style at a time when Realism had not yet become popular in Germany, he is sometimes associated with the Symbolists due to the content of much of his work. Success came to Hans Thoma late in life through official recognition in the form of his appointment as Director of the Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe and Professor at the Karlsruhe Academy in 1899.
A dedicated original printmaker, Hans Thoma had already learnt the art of lithography while working in Basel immediately after leaving school. He only began his training as an artist subsequently, first under J.W. Schirmer in Karlsruhe (through whom he developed his realistic style) and later in Paris under Courbet. In 1870 he met Böcklin in Munich – this meeting was to have a profound impact upon Hans Thoma's art and from this time he began to introduce strange, imaginative and fantastical themes into his images. Hans Thoma made numerous trips to Italy which inspired his interest in religious and mythological subjects. He exhibited with the Vienna Secession and Wagnerian overtones are apparent in much of his art.
An exceptional graphic artist, Hans Thoma produced a considerable body of original prints in a variety of media. He is a figure of great importance in the history of lithography as he was one of the first painters in Germany to initiate the revival of original lithography as a creative art form, first using the process for his own original designs in 1892.