A History of German Art

Schongauer, Durer, Cranach, Holbein, Elsheimer, Mengs, Friedrich, Menzel

25 September – 27 November 2018
Tuesdays 10.45am - 12.45pm
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London W1K 1DB
Leslie Primo
Full course (9 lectures) £449.00
Single lecture £59.00
(includes morning coffee, tea and biscuits)

Book your place now on History of German Art

“Truly outstanding”
“Leslie has enlightened us and taught us how to read art. His approach of thoroughly studying a small number of paintings to address this and the fact that many are actually in the National Gallery”

This course will take us from medieval to modern Germany through artists who would come to be a major influence not just on Northern art but also on the Italian Renaissance and ultimately European art. It will begin in the 1460s and demonstrate the interconnectivity of German artists through their itinerancy, their ingenuity, and rigorous work ethic. Each of the weekly lectures will take a look at an individual artist and in so doing take us from the medieval wood carvings of Tilman Riemenschneider, to the Renaissance art of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Holbein the Younger, to the Baroque art of Adam Elsheimer; from Neo-Classicism to Romanticism and finally to German art of the 19th century with its impact on French Impressionism.

Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, Caspar David Friedrich, 1818
Young Hare, Durer, 1502 Erasmus, Hans Holbein, 1523

Course outline

Tilman Riemenschneider (c. 1460 – 1531)

There is no precise record of when Tilman Riemenschneider was born but it was probably around 1460 at Heiligenstadt im Eichsfeld in present-day Thuringia. Principally a wood carver, we will look at the materials he used and how he came to the trade of sculpting and woodcarving, examine his arrival in Würzburg (at 18) and his itinerant lifestyle. There is scant evidence of this life but we will look at the likely contact and influence of another German artist on his work - Martin Schöngauer, on whose copper engravings he later based his wood carvings.

Martin Schöngauer (active 1469; died 1491)

Martin Schöngauer like many Italian Renaissance artists had a background in the goldsmith trade, influenced by his father the goldsmith Caspar Schöngauer. Although there is no precise recording of when he was born it is believed to be in Colmar in 1469. He was known as an engraver and we will look at his most famous works along with his paintings and those of his workshop, examining the dissemination of these and their wider impact on German art.

No Lecture

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

We will explore the early life and works of this precocious youth who was born in Nuremberg in 1471 and examine the enduring influence he had on the Italian Renaissance, not to mention what the Italian Renaissance had on him. The map of Europe was determined by the Holy Roman Empire and the countries we know today were groups of city states which shared aspects of language and culture. Trade between them allowed the spread of goods and ideas to flourish. He was one of the very first artists to write about himself and left a vast body of autobiographical writings, convinced that posterity would be interested in him. He wrote extensively on art practice including treatises on measurement and human proportion in order to educate future German artists because he was determined to counter the view that Germans were “a race of savage drunkards from a wild country with a poor climate, responsible for the destruction of ancient Rome”.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

Cranach was one of the leading German painters and printmakers of the early 16th century with an incredibly successful workshop. He was the Elector of Saxony’s court painter and the official portraitist of Martin Luther, as well as the Reformation’s chief artist. We will examine Cranach’s output, style of painting and how that style changed as he became more involved with the cause of the Reformation. His altarpieces, Lutheran subject pictures, portraits, as well as mythological works and nudes will all be studied. We will also investigate the success of Cranach among Humanist scholars, rulers, religious leaders and the controversy that still surrounds some of his works.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8 - 1543)

Hans Holbein was born in c.1497-8 in Augsburg and was taught by his father, Hans Holbein the Elder. Recommended to the court of Henry VIII by the humanist Erasmus Deriderius, he spent two periods of his life in England (1526-8 and 1532-43), portraying the nobility of the Tudor court. We will look at his work including his most famous portraits, Henry VIII and “The Ambassadors”. The latter, an enigmatic full-length double portrait is a political statement as much as a record of two friends (Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, the Bishop of Lavaur) at a time of turmoil and upheaval (1533) when Henry VIII was seeking to divorce Catherine of Aragon in order to re-marry Anne Boleyn.

Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)

This painter is often left out of the historical canon of art history or when included is often difficult to place. Adam Elsheimer was born and trained in Frankfurt and almost exclusively worked on a small scale and painted in oil on copper. We will look at his visits to Munich, Venice and Rome and although his output was small, we will look at the influence of these works on more wellknown artists (Rubens, Rembrandt and Claude) and the influence of Renaissance Venetian artists on him (Tintoretto and Veronese). We will also concentrate on his landscapes, religious works and dynamic compositions as well as the spectacular lighting effects that he learned from the work of those Venetian artists

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 - 1779)

This lecture will trace the life of the Neo-classical painter Anton Raphael Mengs, born in Bohemia, and who specialized in pastel portraits. He was trained by his father, Ismael Mengs, (Dresden Court Painter) who was obsessed with Italian Renaissance art and in particular two artists after whom he named his son - Anton (Correggio) and Raffael (Raphael). We will look at his journey from child prodigy to Italy where he became the principle of the Accademia di S. Luca, to Pompeii and Herculaneum, and to Spain as court painter in the service of Charles III. He eventually moved back to Germany to take on his father’s post

Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840)

Here, we emerge into the period of romantic painting through the work of Caspar David Friedrich. This German romantic was actually born in Pomerania, then part of Sweden, but he eventually settled in Dresden where he nurtured a close association with its circle of Romantic scholars and poets. Friedrich is principally famous for his lone figures in the landscape, and symbolic and imaginary images of the forest.

Adolph Menzel (1815 - 1905)

In this final lecture, we move into the late 19th century with the life and work of Adolph Menzel, a leading German artist. Born in 1815, he was first active as a printmaker, and then a draftsman, before eventually turning to oil painting after the age of 30. Nevertheless, he went on to have a prolific career. His technical virtuosity and skill at capturing the effects of real life with an almost photographic accuracy would pre-empt the work of the French Impressionism by 30 years. He would ultimately visit Paris and meet Edgar Degas, and become known as the unparalleled chronicler of Berlin life.