German Painting
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German Painting

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211 pages
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In a country only unified since 1871, German culture and art is derived from ancient tradition. Studying German painting requires viewing it on a different scale, larger than the current geographical frontiers. From the Middle Ages through to the New Objectivity of the 20th century, we introduce you to the German artists who have marked history: Albrecht Dürer, the Romantic Caspar David Friedrich, and the Expressionist Otto Dix. Original in its themes, German painting always seeks harmony whilst remaining inquisitive.

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Date de parution 15 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 5
EAN13 9781783107933
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Author:
Klaus H. Carl
With detailed text citations from:
Dr Dorothea Eimert, Art and Architecture of the 20 th Century

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© George Grosz Estate, Artists Right Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
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© Conrad Felix Müller Estate, Artists Right Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers, artists, heirs or estates. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.

ISBN: 978-1-78310-793-3
Klaus H. Carl



GERMAN PAINTING
FROM THE MIDDLE AGES TO NEW OBJECTIVITY
Contents


Art of the Middle Ages
From the Beginning to the Romanesque
The Romanesque
Illuminated Manuscripts
Stained Glass
Wall Painting
Panel Painting
Gothic Style
Stained Glass
Panel Painting
Wilhelm of Cologne and the Cologne School of Painting
Stephan Lochner
Art of the Early Modern Period
The Renaissance
From the Late Gothic to the Early Renaissance
Michael Wolgemut
Martin Schongauer
The High Renaissance
Albrecht D ü rer
Hans Leonhard ächäufelin and Hans Süß von Kulmbach
Albrecht Altdorfer
Matthias Grünewald
Hans Baldung Grien
Hans Holbein the Elder
Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Burgkmair the Elder
Christoph Amberger
Bernhard Strigel
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Younger
Baroque and Rococo
Adam Elsheimer
Joachim von Sandrart
Johann Heinrich Roos
The Rococo
Classicism
Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki
Anton Raphael Mengs
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein
Asmus Jacob Carstens
Romanticism
Carl Anton Joseph Rottmann
Friedrich Preller the Elder
Caspar David Friedrich
Philipp Otto Runge
Johann Wilhelm Schirmer
The Nazarene Movement
Peter von Cornelius
Johann Friedrich Overbeck
Philipp Veit
Edward Ritter von Steinle
Biedermeier
Adrian Ludwig Richter
Carl Spitzweg
Wilhelm von Kaulbach
Georg Friedrich Kersting
Realism
Carl Blechen
Adolph Menzel
Anton von Werner
Arthur Kampf
Carl Theodor von Piloty
Franz von Lenbach
Wilhelm Leibl
Hans Thoma
Hugo von Habermann
Historicism of the 19 th Century
Max Klinger
Anselm Feuerbach
Hans von Marées
Art of Modern Times
Impressionism
The End of the 19 th Century
Käthe Kollwitz
Heinrich Zille
Max Liebermann
Franz Skarbina
Max Slevogt
Ludwig von Hofmann
Walter Leistikov
Lovis Corinth
Fritz von Uhde
Symbolism
Franz von Stuck
The Munich Draughtsmen
Expressionism
Taking a Look at Europe
The Art in Worpswede
Paula Modersohn-Becker
The Futurists
The Dissolution of Shape through Colour
Die Brücke (The Bridge)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Erich Heckel
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Max Pechstein
Otto Mueller
Emil Nolde
Christian Rohlfs
Ludwig Meidner
Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider)
Karl Hofer - From the NKVM to Der Blaue Reiter
Franz Marc
Wassily Kandinsky
Alexej von Jawlensky
Marianne von Werefkin
Gabriele Münter
Rhenish Expressionism
The Exhibition Rhenish Expressionists
August Macke
Heinrich Campendonck
The ‘ Degenerate ’
The Exhibition Degenerate Art
Max Beckmann
New Objectivity
George Grosz
Otto Dix
Conrad Felixmüller
Bibliography
Index
Christ in Majesty , 1120. Fresco.
Apse, Church of Sts Peter and Paul,
Reichenau-Niederzell.


Art of the Middle Ages


From the Beginning to the Romanesque

When the Romans conquered most of the country north of the Alps, previously inhabited by Germanic tribes, built fortified camps for their troops, and founded colonies – which frequently evolved to cities – to secure their reign, they did not meet any noticeable resistance against the introduction of their culture. The art of construction and sculpture was unknown to the Germanic people, even in their original forms. It is even likely that they felt that as warriors this refined cultural practice of art was unworthy.
Only when the Romans began to build bathrooms and buildings, shelters, road systems, water lines, and other things, the attitude of the Germans may have gradually changed. More and more they exercised the advantages given to them by the foreign culture of the conquerors, which they initially rejected. It was then likely that the impulse of imitation would soon awaken among them. The Romans felt so sure of their property that they would build magnificent country houses, in particular on the banks of the Rhine and its tributaries, which they decorated with the usual artistic decor of their native soil, especially with sculptures and mosaics.
However, the artists who had followed the conquering armies did not progress beyond a modest degree of technical ability, which became noticeable as the demand for works of art in the Roman settlements increased. Most often the sculptors were engaged in the creation of a great number of grave monuments and gravestones which still remain today. From this it can be deduced that the artists mainly stuck to down-to-earth, concrete reproductions, creating portraits of the dead in rough, realistic ways without any artistic refinement.
The contact with Rome gradually broke off. But even without this distance, Roman art would not have flourished on the Germanic soil without more new blood, as the ancient art had become, even in Rome, unimaginative and homespun. However, this austere, realist art may have developed nonetheless in the new homeland, had the storms of tribal migration not destroyed the Roman Empire and at the same time the Roman culture.
When new states emerged out of the chaos and withstood the test of time, taking care of the art was probably the last concern of the respective ruler, and if they did care about it, then it was an art that first benefited them. It satisfied their love of splendour and their need to keep servants, warriors, and vassals happy through generous gifts.
From grave finds, we have some evidence about the original Germanic practice of art. In particular, numerous clips, clothes pins, belt fittings, necklaces and hair jewellery of gold, silver, and other metals have been found in Frankish graves dating to around the 3 rd to the 8 th century. Even though they take their inspiration from Roman models, they show independent jewellery ornamentation, a wonderful play of tangled lines and braided, interwoven bands, ending in grotesque human and animal heads. This ornamentation has by no means disappeared from the formal repertoire of the Germanic people and would later emerge once more in the Romanesque art of the Middle Ages.
Although the Merovingian rulers completed extensive activity in church-building, none of their buildings have been preserved. From written records it is known, however, that their churches were based on early Christian basilicas and usually had cruciform shapes. The national element of art was represented at that time by miniature painting only, brought by the first preachers of the gospel in north-western Germany: Irish and Scottish monks.
In contrast to the Byzantine illuminated manuscripts, where the emphasis was placed on the illustrations not text, the Irish monks aspired to develop writing artistically. They carried it out with the utmost cleanliness and neatness, allowing the development of the calligraphy, to which they added rich adornments of ornate initials, borders, border decorations, and other decors. Without foreign influences, they brought along their own unique, ornamental style, which was so closely related to the ancient Germanic ornamentation in its basic forms, especially in the strong disposition for splendour and in the inexhaustible variety of play with grotesque animal forms, that it found understanding and willing reception.
This calligraphic feature of the miniature painting was applied by the Irish monks, whose manuscripts were spread all over Germany up to the Swiss town of St Gallen, and thus influenced the art of the 7 th and 8 th centuries significantly. The latter finally lost all connection to nature and could therefore not serve as a model for the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon scribes who had already progressed much more in the depiction of the human form, though still standing under the influence of the after-effects of their idols of ancient art. Most likely, the Irish ornamentation had been adapted by them, and even enhanced.
Initial page of the Book of Daniel:Daniel in the Lion ’ s Den,
folio 105 (recto), Major Prophets, Old Testament,
Latin Bible, Swabia (Weingarten), c. 1220.
Parchment, 479 x 335 cm (text 335 x 205 cm ).
Ada Gospels, Portrait of Matthew,
folio 15 (verso), c. 800. Parchment,
36.6 x 24.5 cm . Stadtbibliothek Trier, Trier.


The Romanesque

The painting was used to decorate either murals in churches or illuminated manuscripts. The themes and design features were the same for mural paintings and illuminated manuscripts. Through the Crusades, Byzantine style elements came to Central Europe. Because the majority of the population was illiterate, scenes from the Bible were presented figuratively in the form of cycles. In these images, different stories were told around one topic. Art not only had a decorative function, but also, and more importantly, a didactic one. In particular the apse and the walls of the nave of a church were painted.
In some regions, ornamentation and geometric patterns on the ceiling and the pillars of churches were common. Commonly, blue, red, white, and black were used. Only a few of the mural paintings in Romanesque churches have survived; they were in time either painted over or destroyed by fire. Paintings from the Carolingian period bearing resemblance to the ancient world went missing, and the works eventually became less pompous and representative. Common characteristics include flatness obtained through the elimination of depth, solid contours, symmetrical arrangement of objects, and an expressive sign language. The physicality of the figures is negated and replaced by a symbolic function of colour and proportion.
The people of the Middle Ages could neither read nor write, with the exception of the clergy. The Bible was only available in Greek or Latin and sermons during church services were exclusively held in Latin. In order to teach people the Scriptures, the walls of Romanesque churches were covered with monumental frescoes. It was described as the Biblia pauperum , the ‘Bible of the Poor’ (i.e. frescoes or illustrations on paper for the illiterate). Paintings on movable pictorial medium – primarily wood during the Romanesque period – gently began to make its way through the Western art world, especially large-scale tapestries which served as pictorial narratives for biblical and historical stories.
Codex Manesse , folio 219 (verso) and 220 (recto),
c. 1160/1170-1330. 426 parchment pages, 35.05 x 25 cm ,
with 140 poems, 137 miniatures, and an ink drawing.
Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Heidelberg.


Illuminated Manuscripts

Important art forms in the Romanesque period included precious illuminated manuscripts, mostly executed by monks, and carved ivory book-cover ornaments. Illuminated manuscripts originated from monastic writing rooms as pictorial accompaniments to the text. Characteristics of illuminated manuscripts included initials (large, highly-decorated initials), ornamental borders, and figures.
The figures were simple and limited to the essentials. Vivid, bright colours and bold outlines were used. Gold and red symbolised the highest rank. The size of a person in a picture depended on the person’s importance; Jesus was therefore always depicted bigger than an angel. The eyes and hands, considered vehicles of expression, were often emphasised. The protagonists barely move and show few typical gestures. To a certain extent, they are arranged symmetrically and are only made livelier through small deviations. The representation of the halo was taken from Byzantine art and clothing was presented with a few stylised drapery folds. Shadows and spatial depth were omitted, as a naturalistic representation was not considered a requisite.
The development of the medieval regions of Italy during the Roman era can be understood in its context only through the works of miniature painting, i.e. through the illuminated manuscripts of Gospel songbooks and mass books, used in churches and monasteries, through early copies of works of Greek and Roman writers, and through textbooks for schools and monasteries. Around the middle of the 12 th century, under the influence of chivalry, secular poetry emerged, which quickly took a brilliant upswing, culminating on the one hand in the lyric poetry of the troubadours and on the other hand in splendid, narrative poetry.
The manuscripts of this sort of poetry were also artistically arranged in the way of ecclesiastical manuscripts. Pen drawing was preferred to the coloured painting on a golden background, which permitted a greater speed of production, a freer movement, and expression that responded to the needs of the representation of contemporary figures and events better than working with the conventional means of miniature painting. The pen and ink drawings were sometimes slightly coloured and are therefore to be regarded as a precursor to the later wood engraving.

Stained Glass

The stained glass of Romanesque rose windows gives the faithful a taste of heavenly glory. The origin of stained glass probably goes back to the Old Persian Sassanids. Since around the early Middle Ages, it was used both in church and in secular constructions. Two different methods were used for their production: either the drawing was applied to coloured glass or colourless glass was painted with enamel paint. The colours initially existed in powdered form, and in addition to the said melting colours, there were also glass etchings with diffusion colours and precious metal colours.
Coloured glass windows were the only decorative element in church interiors, as painted surfaces would be interrupted by the light-giving windows. The so-called ‘stained glass of the Middle Ages’ is actually a branch of mosaic art, because the representations, designed at the outset on paper or parchment as a whole, were cut out of the mass like mosaics and assembled on trimmed glass plates which were connected by the outlines, forming lead frames at the same time. The finer details of the drawing were applied with black stain, and the latter was merged with the glass plates by burning.
When manufacturing glass and when composing it, one had to ensure full transparency, and that is where the glass makers of the later Middle Ages had a skill rarely attained. The enchantment of light effects, which the old stained glass would transmit into the medieval churches, has been rightly compared with the sparkle of precious stones, and this luminosity that seems to be coming from the depths has remained the mystery of ancient glassmaking and glass painting. Although, already in the 10 th century, figurative representations were placed in the middle of their windows, which they then surrounded with an ornamental edging, it took a long time until they came to a freer treatment of the human form.
Since the glass windows were exposed to a much higher degree of destruction than the murals, only a few of the stained-glass windows of the Romanesque period have survived. Probably the oldest stained-glass windows are five windows in the Augsburg Cathedral of the 8 th century, with its two towers visible from afar, which depict figures of prophets that, in their rigid attitude, stand behind the painting of this time because of the brittle technique of those years.
The subsequent time either contented with such single figures or was satisfied with ornamental patterns, reminiscent of oriental rugs. The stained glass of the Gothic period ventured to extensive compositions with many figures, competing with the murals and finally surpassing them with the closely huddled figures in a confined space.
Roman mural by a master of Regensburg, Bishop Otto I of Bamberg, c. 1125/1130.
St George Minster, Prüfening Abbey, Regensburg.
Wall painting in the Chapel of the Holy Cross (detail), c. 1360.
Fresco with gold leaf. Karlštejn Castle, Karlštejn.


Wall Painting

No less important than the illuminated manuscript during the dominion of the Romanesque style was the mural painting. It is known that the interior of churches, and not only walls and vaulted ceilings, but also pillars and columns, were covered with figure and ornamental paintings. The figurative representations sometimes extended to contiguous series of images whose content was determined by the clergy of the churches in accordance with certain dogmatic considerations. Unfortunately, these murals have disappeared except for very few, and the small amount that have survived are disfigured by weathering or later repainting, so that a correct image of the importance and the rich content of Romanesque wall painting cannot be obtained. We can, however, still observe that just like architecture and sculpture, mural painting also emerged in its early days under the Carolingians from the Roman, early Christian art and has been further developed in a similar way to the miniature painting which, having reached maturity earlier, influenced the wall painting art in many ways.
The oldest surviving monument of medieval wall painting in Germany has been discovered under the whitewash of paintings in the nave of St George’s Church in Oberzell located on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance. Executed at the end of the 10 th century, it represents the eight miracles of Christ. The noble posture and movement of the figures, the treatment of garments, and the grandeur of the composition testify to the vivid connection with Carolingian art.
The second-oldest wall paintings are those in the lower church in Schwarzrheindorf and the chapter house of Brauweiler Abbey near Cologne, which belong to the mid-12 th century. They show that artists had learned in the meantime to strive for greater richness and expressiveness, without losing the sense of solemn effect. This was enhanced in the subsequent period, whilst the shape of the figure became increasingly freer and livelier and the expression of the heads intensified. That which Romanesque wall painting in Germany accomplished in its highest stage of development is best witnessed through the wall paintings in Brunswick Cathedral done in the first half of the 13 th century. Considerable remnants still remain in the choir and the transept, despite heavy repainting and partial amending.

Panel Painting

In Germany, panel painting was already treasured under the Romanesque style. A definitive but odd piece of evidence for this is the triptych from the Wiesenkirche in Soest that had originally served as the altarpiece, later transferred to the Berlin museums. It is painted on parchment mounted on oak and represents the crucifixion in the centre, on the left Christ before the Roman procurator appointed to the high priest and incumbent Caiaphas (translated as: interpreter or seer) from the years eighteen to thirty-seven, and on the right the three Marys at the grave of Christ. It is almost entirely under Byzantine influence. Subsequently, this art was either introduced in Germany by Byzantine artists or local artists reproduced it from Byzantine panel paintings, which often arrived in Germany through the Crusaders, who maintained active communication with Byzantium. The German artistic spirit awoke in the course of the 12 th century, but it soon made itself free from foreign models and thrived in this area to find the true image of its substance.
St Lawrence and the Mother of God , 1508.
Donated by Dean Phillip of Daun and his parents,
from the stained-glass window The Passion of Christ ,
in the northern aisle of Cologne Cathedral, Cologne.
Peter Hemmel von Andlau , Mystic Marriage of St Catherine,
c. 1481. Stained-glass window. Originally commissioned for the
Volckamer family for St Lawrence ’ s Church, Nuremberg.


Gothic Style

The painting of the Gothic Middle Ages became an independent art form faster than sculpture, which found a safe haven in wood carving which was less dominated by architecture. Self-preservation led to this freedom, as the basic laws of Gothic architecture were to bring about a gradual end to mural painting. Subsequent to the gradual removal of the pillars that quickly came too close together, there was no more space for mural paintings. At the beginning it fought for its preservation. But little remains from this last struggle for the existence of the mural. The most outstanding monument of the late period of medieval wall painting is an enthroned Christ in the apse of the church of Braunweiler on the Rhine. The mural found its last refuge in castles and town halls until there, too, the time for this kind of painting had elapsed.

Stained Glass

In the course of time, the role of the mural was gradually taken over by stained glass, which found another field of activity in both the windows of the aisles and in the choir. Their glory days were in the 14 th and 15 th centuries. Stained glass submitted less to architecture than developed in correlation. The monumental single figures of the Romanesque style were replaced by a wealth of representations rich in figures, which were joined together as one well-structured being through architectural binding. One representation stood with the other in textual connection, and as the content affects the reflection, so the beauty of the colours of the transparent glass sheets act on the senses.
Despite the sensitive, fragile material, relatively many glass windows have survived the storms of centuries. In France, these include those in the cathedrals of Reims, Beauvais, Chartres, and Strasbourg, and especially the Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. In Germany, the cathedral in Cologne, (which in 2007 received a beautiful new stained-glass window, 113 m 2 in size, made from 11,273 colour plates and created by the Cologne artist Gerhard Richter, born in 1932), and the cathedrals in Freiburg and Regensburg are still rich in relatively undamaged glass windows.
The art of the ancient glass-makers and -painters can still be seen, and there remain archetypal patterns of this skill. But the fresh reception with which the people of the Middle Ages took up the narrative part of this pictorial art has been lost at the present time, in which we are oversaturated with information of all kinds. Therefore, the attempts to revitalise the old stained glass in their content will mostly attract archaeological interest only.
Portrait of Walther von der Vogelweide, from the Codex Manesse , c. 1300-1340.
Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Heidelberg.


Panel Painting

When painting in the northern countries looked for a new field of activity, after the walls were no longer available, it worked together with sculptural art. The decoration of altars was the new target, and for a long time the fusion of arts worked together harmoniously. Sculpture created the architectural framework for the painting; whole constructions were erected on the altars and decorated with carved image work. Painting had at first a larger share in the development of these painted and gilded constructions than it did with wooden surfaces.
For a long time, carving formed the noblest part of the shrine or of the altarpiece, the execution of which was so precious and creative that it was showed to the devotees only during high church celebrations; they were deprived of it on other days by means of the collapsed wings. Only these wings were decorated on the exterior and interior with figurative paintings – a sign that painting was significantly less import than sculpture during the domination of the Gothic, which in many parts of Germany, in the north as well as in the south, was able to maintain its leading role in ecclesiastical art up to the 16 th century.
Only from approximately the middle of the 15 th century did painting win over the middle panel of the winged altars and thus conquer a field in which it could develop in full freedom, making itself independent from sculpture and architecture and developing proper panel painting. The first steps in this direction were made by painters in Cologne in the Lower Rhine region around the end of the 14 th century, and also in the Netherlands.
The most important event in the field of painting in this period was therefore the advent of panel painting and its rapid development into an independent art form, which emerged out of the shadows of architecture and created its own laws. On the altar shrines on which they first appeared, they played only a minor role. The main representations on these altarpieces, carved in wood, looked more like paintings than plastic works of art, with their numerous figures. Painting, which served as an enhancement, wanted to compete with artistry by trying to represent the figures as sculpturally as possible without exploiting the inherent power of colour.
Master Heinrich Frauenlob, from the Codex Manesse , c. 1300-1340.
Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Heidelberg.


Wilhelm of Cologne and the Cologne School of Painting

The beginning of this new painting in Cologne goes back to a Wilhelm of Cologne who was employed by the City Council in Cologne to complete paintings of any kind and any size, such as murals, images for flags and pendants, and book miniatures.
His performance must have been extraordinary for his time, as even a contemporary historian, the chronicler of the city of Limburg an der Lahn, remembered the artist and his work, and this is an unusual enthusiasm for chroniclers. There were no equals at that time in the entire Christendom, “[...] he painted everybody as if the person was alive”. But the Cologne school of painting had not sought and found their fame in the imitation of reality, but in a poetic idealism that aspired to break away from the nature of ordinary reality.
Of the works of Wilhelm of Cologne, possibly named Wilhelm von Herle, who was admitted to the Cologne Vine brotherhood in 1368 and “[...] received nine marks for paintings in 1370”, only sparse remnants of wall paintings from the upper town hall remain. The nine good heroes are presented as role models worthy of imitation, and some of these painted heads are now in a museum in Cologne. His name is also a collective term for a series of pictures that the Cologne school of painting, the school he founded, produced during his lifetime or soon after his death. Even if he had not personally participated, his mind continued to live in these pictures. They are, apart from a large altarpiece with scenes from the life of Jesus (now in Cologne Cathedral), from the convent of Franciscan nuns (the Clares) originating in Cologne, consistently small devotional images that were painted to decorate the altars in the private chapels of Cologne patricians. Extensive carvings of architectural character would have been misplaced in those tight spaces where silent prayers should enjoy communion.
Therefore painting came to the fore, and it knew so eloquently to speak a natural language to the worshippers that it was quickly understood merely by its favourite subject, the Madonna, who had become for people in medieval times even more venerable than Christ himself. The semi-romantic, semi-rough, and sensual female cult had so closely fused with the veneration of Mary, that the divine and the secular have become inseparable.
The Cologne painters saw the aim of their tireless work in the depiction of the ideal image of Mary, which at the same time represented the female ideal. They also experienced the satisfaction that their paintings, full of lovely grace, although often imitated would be rarely exceeded by the masters of later times despite extensive imitation.
The spiritual movement came to an artistic close around the same time as courtly love, the courtly epic, and didactic spiritual poetry. The courtly love song of the early days received an equal incarnation through the arts not in the miniatures of the older manuscripts, but in the pictures of the early days of the Cologne school.
Every flower, every blade of grass was represented true to nature by the Cologne painters, and these laboriously gathered glories were woven together like the threads of a carpet into each other in order to visually put them at the feet of the Blessed Mother.
It is thanks to this poetic urge that painting developed earlier than drawing and feelings developed stronger than the expression of the character. The Madonna herself evaporated into a very graceful, but impersonal creation that generally only embodied the popular beauty type, whereby the lack of knowledge of the body became increasingly obvious in the representation of the naked child.
But picturesque charm compensated greatly for these shortcomings, and for the first time the contrast between light and shadow appeared, for the first time the colour, depending on how it was exposed to light, became lighter or darker, and out of all this grew, for the first time, the achievement of modelling through colour that was previously reserved for sculpture alone.
Within the old painting of Cologne, numerous examples of which have been preserved in the churches and museums of Cologne, we can distinguish an older and a younger school. The elder finds its origin in Wilhelm of Cologne, as seen in a small, winged altar that represents, in the middle, the Madonna with a bean flower in her hand, St Catherine on the left wing, and St Barbara on the right.
A similar Madonna with the Pea-Blossom is displayed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, a Holy Virgin with the Child on a flowery meadow surrounded by female saints in Berlin, and a St Veronica with the Sudarium Christi (c. 1420) in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. These representations are just as characteristic for the artistic nature of the older school as for their scope.
Konrad Witz , The Miraculous Draft of Fishes , 1444.
Wood, 132 x 151 cm . Musée d ’ Art et d ’ Histoire, Geneva.
Stephan Lochner , Madonna of the Rose Bower , c. 1440-1442. Oil on wood,
50.5 x 40 cm . Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
& Fondation Corboud, Cologne.


Stephan Lochner

The most important master of the younger Cologne school of painting was Stephan Lochner (c. 1400/1410-1451). Born in Meersburg on Lake Constance, he came to Cologne while young and here, as is apparent from documents, he frequently worked for the magistrate and probably lived in great prosperity. He possibly died of the then-raging plague. Besides the triptych The Last Judgement or the Madonna of the Rose Bower (c. 1440-1442) , the Altar of the Magi, a winged altar with the Adoration of the Magi in the centre from around 1445, briefly known as the Altar of the City Patrons , is amongst his most famous works. Originally planned for the chapel of the town hall, which was inaugurated in 1426, it was instead moved to the Agnes Chapel of the cathedral in 1810.
The fame of this image had spread so far in the 15 th and 16 th centuries that during his stay in Cologne in 1529, Albrecht Dürer sacrificed two white pennies on his trip to the Netherlands to allow Master Stephan’s panel to be opened. The closed wings show the Annunciation on the outside, an angel on the right, and on the left the blessed Virgin in her room, kneeling in front of the prie-dieu. On the inside of the wing we can see the legendary St Ursula with her maidens, and on the right one St Gereon presented with the martyrs of the also-legendary Theban Legion.
The remains of the Three Magi , those most revered saints who were the chief patrons of the city, had miraculously appeared in Cologne and were united there. Master Stephan had used all his skills for the centre image of the triptych, surpassing all other painting of those years, Italian painting included, and showing what it was possible to achieve in colours and fineness of painterly treatment.
All the details are carried out with the same love: the heads, in which there is already a variety of characteristics, the magnificent fashion faithfully imitated from contemporary clothing, the weapons, the treasures brought by wise men from the East, the carpet stretched by the angels behind the Madonna as well as the flowers growing out of the grass plants. All of these individual effects as well as the magnificent total harmony and the poetic feeling that is communicated with irresistible force to the viewer are solely due to the colour. Only the golden background and the rich tracery of the images completing the top with carved wooden bow series, remind us of the role that had been played by sculpture and architecture on this altar shrine.
The Cologne school had reached the peak of its development with the Altar of the City Patrons . It failed however to breakthrough beyond the description of a beautiful human existence in a peaceful quietness and never reached the dramatic nor the passionate. Where it tried passion or martyr depictions, it fell into savagery and caricature that are in unpleasant contradiction with the lovely depictions of paradisiacal peace.
The further accomplishment of the painting, its complete integration into nature, remained reserved to the Dutch school under the leadership of the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck, whose activities already belong to the succeeding epochs.
Due to the city’s close proximity to the border, the Dutch influence in Cologne made itself noticeable very early and soon supplanted the friendly idealism and the idyllic serenity of Stephan Lochner’s style in favour of a serious and joyless realism, even if individual artists of this region have shown real determination to unite the Cologne sense of beauty with the Flemish-Brabant realism.
But ultimately, a rather sober sense of reality that must have met the sense of of time won the upper hand, because by the middle of the 16 th century, a considerable number of pictures along this line were seen. It is very revealing for the whole nature of Cologne art creation of this time that none of the artists signed his work. Neither in chronicles nor in documents can any information be found on the painters of the Cologne school. Art was here obviously ‘only’ a craft, and maybe that is the reason why only artistic individuals named after their main work can be found.
Stephan Lochner , The Last Judgement , central panel
of a triptych, c. 1435. Oil on wood, 124.5 x 173 cm .
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne.
Master of the Housebook (or Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet ), Pair of Lovers , c. 1480-1485.
Tempera and oil glaze on linden and poplar, 118 x 82.5 cm .
Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Schlossmuseum, Gotha.


Art of the Early Modern Period


The Renaissance

From the Late Gothic to the Early Renaissance

In the first half of the 15 th century, painting in Germany had virtually played no role. Often only used for carved altars, it eked out a fairly modest, even rather craft-oriented existence. A new field opened up when a new technique for picture printing was developed, based on wood or metal plates that allowed an almost-unlimited reproduction of pictorial representations. This new technology led the movement for painting, rather than following it.
But in the second half of this century, when Dutch artists had brought the new style of painting to Germany – the reverse hardly ever occurred – it resulted in new heights in German painting, though initially strictly based on Dutch models. But soon, it took its own direction thanks to several talented artists, occasionally depending on their residence or working place. Due to the development of Cologne painting, southern Germany with the cities of Ulm, Nuremberg, and Nördlingen became much more important for the dissemination of Dutch painting.
All painters of the time were mainly concerned with altars and devotional pictures. The middle parts of the altars were usually executed in wood carving, whilst the painters who often also worked as wood carvers had to be satisfied with the inner and outer sides of the wings. Anyway, the whole altar was completed in the big Ulm and Nuremberg workshops where the production of such altars was almost series-produced, with its carving, painting, and gilding, and delivered completely finished. The role of the individual arts was no longer distinguishable.
During this time, Nuremberg was the artistic centre of Germany. There had been renowned artists in the first half of the 15 th century, probably influenced by the Prague school, who could satisfy the demand for altarpieces. Among them was the main master before Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Hans Pleydenwurff (c. 1420-1472), who lived in Nuremberg from 1457 and who was the first to part from conventional painting and to adopt Dutch realism. Among others, he created a Crucifixion (c. 1465).

Michael Wolgemut

Whether Pleydenwurff was actually the teacher of Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) cannot be determined with certainty, but his son created the woodcuts for Hartmann Wedels’ Chronicle (1493) in collaboration with Wolgemut.
Later Michael Wolgemut took over Pleydenwurff’s workshop and extended it considerably to an unimaginative mass production, but it did not progress the local art any longer. But Wolgemut and his helpers had occasionally adapted the ideas and works of Martin Schongauer (c. 1445/1450-1491) and exploited them under their own name, even though they hardly contributed. The central panels of his altarpieces were always executed in wood carving, for which Wolgemut had perhaps only supplied the drawings.
Wolgemut’s work can be found, among others, in a triple convertible polyptych with martyr figures, a Passion, and a Christmas cycle in Zwickau Cathedral (1479), St Catherine ’ s Altar (right wing, c. 1485), the Peringsdörffer Altar (c. 1490) in Nuremberg’s Church of Peace, and the Schwabach Altar in the Martin Parish Church of Schwabach (1508).
Wolgemut has acquired an even-greater merit through his drawings and graphics for book illustrations than through his paintings. Together with his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (1460-1494), he created about 2,000 woodcuts. The most beautiful one is certainly the cover of an edition of the world Chronicle God the Father Enthroned (1493), published in German and in Latin by Schedel.
In Devotional Book for Laymen, the 1491 book by the Nuremberg printer Anton Coburg (c. 1440-1513), Wolgemut has signed ninety-nine illustrations. Measured against the time of their creation, these illustrations provide a more accurate picture of the time at the end of the 15 th century than the panel paintings.

Martin Schongauer

Not much is known about Schongauer’s life. It is known that he was born in Colmar, as the son of a goldsmith. Around 1488, he moved to Breisach where he probably died in 1491.
His few paintings include, among others, the Madonna of the Rose Bower (1473, St Martin’s Church, Colmar) depicting Mary with the child in front of a rose bush, a late Gothic Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1475-1480, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin); a Holy Family (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna); and the Portrait of a Young Woman (Heinz Kisters collection, Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, both these latter dated between the years 1470-1490).
In his paintings, in accordance with his time and in compliance with the clients, the compositions only served ecclesiastical purposes, strictly limiting the topics. In contrast, he could develop freely in his engravings. For the presentation of the story of Christ, Schongauer created the paragons which then became a benchmark for other artists. These include the timeless, classic copperplate Christ Before Pilate (1470-1480) and Adoration of the Magi (both the Print-Room, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe) originating from before 1479. With the St Anthony Tormented by Demons (c. 1470-1475, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), he invigorated the deep-rooted inclination in Germany at that time for fantasy and ghostlike topics.
At the same time, using his sense of reality, he created a humorous depiction of daily life, and this made him one of the first German genre painters.
Martin Schongauer , The Holy Family , 1480-1490.
Oil on wood, 26.3 x 17.2 cm . Gemäldegalerie,
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna.
Lower Rhine Master , Magic of Love , second half
of the 15 th century. Oil on wood, 24 x 18 cm .
Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Leipzig.
Hans Memling , Vanity, central panel from Polyptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation , c. 1490.
Oil on wood, 20 x 13 cm . Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.
Albrecht Dürer , Self-Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe , 1500. Oil on limewood,
67.1 x 48.9 cm . Alte Pinakothek, Munich.


The High Renaissance

The specific characteristics of art of the Italian Renaissance are only present in the German art of the 16 th century to a minute extent, so that the term ‘Renaissance’ is quite inadequate. The renewal of German art in the 15 th century had other roots and causes than Italian art, which had its foundations in the study of antiquity and nature.
In Germany, on par with the Netherlands, nature was the starting point for the new direction. The Great Masters in Germany, such as Cranach, Dürer, and Holbein did not refuse outright the new ideas that had crossed the Alps, but they limited their application to either orn

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