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Kaiser Friedrich III died on 15 June 1888, three months after his accession. Liebermann had been in Kösen in February of that year, where he made some studies of a clearing in a beech wood where memorial services were often held.This painting was the artist's first version of this subject (the second, formerly in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, was destroyed in 1945). Inspired by Adolf Menzel's 'Mission Service in the Beech Wood at Kösen' of 1868 (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), this painting also developed out of Liebermann's own studies of the wood. Many preparatory drawings for the painting survive.
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