German art and architecture

* The Carolingian and Ottonian Periods
Carolingian architecture and art are commonly considered to have been the earliest manifestations of discernibly Germanic art.  As the center of Charlemagneís empire, the Rhineland was the home of the massive palace chapel at Aachen (c.800), decorated with mosaics, and of contemporary churches such as the one at Fulda. Many of these show the revival of early Christian plans (see Early Christian art and architecture).  Carolingian ivory book covers and diptychs were also notable.   The first outstanding examples of German painting and sculpture were created (c.960?c.1060) during the Ottonian dynasty. Splendid manuscripts, enriched by illuminations remarkable for their force of linear expression, issued from the school of Reichenau (e.g., the Gospels of Otto III, State Library, Munich), while in Cologne miniature painting exhibited a brilliant use of color. Fine craftsmanship is apparent in the metalwork of this period, from the small objects produced by the goldsmiths of Mainz to more massive achievements, such as the bronze doors (1015) for the Church of St. Michael at Hildesheim. The architecture of St. Michaelís exemplifies a tendency in Ottonian buildings toward the development of a complex ground plan. A highly rational system was devised of dividing the church into a series of separate units, a method that was to be of consequence in Romanesque design.

Fig 1.  The Aachen cathedral treasury displays sacral masterpieces of the late Classical, Carolingian, Ottonian and Staufian period - among them there are som unique exhibits like the »Cross of Lothair« the »Bust of Charlemagne« and the »Persephone sarcophagus«. The Cathedral Treasury in Aachen is regarded as one of the most important ecclesiastical treasuries in northern Europe.

* The Romanesque and Gothic Periods
Romanesque architecture and art flourished in Germany, and the cathedrals in basilica form at Worms, Mainz, and Speyer typify the characteristic divisive style of the period.  Little remains of Romanesque fresco painting, of which Regensburg and Salzburg were major Germanic centers.    With the diffusion of the French Gothic style throughout Europe, notable contributions were made by the Germans.  The magnificent sculpture of the portals for the cathedrals at Bamberg, Strasbourg, and Naumburg was executed during the first half of the 13th cent.  French influence is most strongly revealed in the cathedral of Cologne (c.1250).  Modifying the French emphasis on decoration, however, the Germans built simpler, unadorned piers and evolved a more unified, spacious form of church.  This style may be seen in the Church of St. Sebald (c.1370), Nuremberg, or in the cathedral (c.1470) at Munich.

Maulbronn MonasteryWell-house

Fig's 2 & 3.  "Founded in 1147, the Cistercian Maulbronn Monastery is considered the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastery complex north of the Alps.Surrounded by fortified walls, the main buildings were constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The monastery's church, built in the transitional Romanesque-Gothic style, had significant influence on the spread of Gothic architecture over much of northern and central Europe. The water management system at Maulbronn, with its elaborate network of drains, irrigation canals and reservoirs, is exceptional." - (from UNESCO's World Heritage List)
* The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
Outstanding German sculpture was created in the late 15th cent. with the powerfully realistic works, particularly in wooden altarpieces, of Peter Vischer the elder, Veit Stoss, Adam Kraft, and Tilman Riemenschneider.  Active both as a sculptor and as a painter, Hans Multscher established the Swabian school.  In the late 15th and early 16th cent., manuscript illumination and fresco painting declined as stained glass technique and panel painting became highly developed.  The refined paintings of Stephan Lochner are among those that reflect Flemish influence, particularly of the van Eycks and of Rogier van der Weyden. Martin Schongauer, painting at the same time, developed a more individual style, characterized by delicate and curving lines. Hans Holbein the elder, and Michael Pacher were among the other major 15th-century figures.   The artistic genius of the century was Albrecht Dürer. His paintings, woodcuts, and engravings were produced at an unprecedented level of perfection, influencing all European art of the time. He visited Venice and was chiefly responsible for bringing elements of the Italian Renaissance style to Germany.  Painting in the 16th cent. was at its height in Germany and led all other arts. Hans Holbein the younger, Mathias Grünewald (creator of the last major Gothic altarpiece), Albrecht Altdorfer (who brought pure landscape painting into vogue), Lucas Cranach the elder, and Hans Baldung were the great masters of the age.  othic architecture prevailed so long in Germany that when the Church of St. Michaelís in Munich was built (c.1590), the Renaissance and mannerist periods had already ended, and early baroque churches, heavily influenced by Italian design, were being constructed.
Fig's 4 & 5.The Church of Our Lady, in the Cathedral's cose vicinity and near the Great Market, shows complete unity of style - the strong individualism characteristic of early Gothic architecture.

These twin-churches therefore represent one of the largest of all dual church buildings of early Christian architecture. The ancient masonry of the south-building was incorporated in later alterations and remained until the 12th century. The present church was built between 1235 and 1260.

The Church of Our Lady is considered to be the earliest and most important among Gothic buildings of central construction and altogether one of Germany's first Gothic churches. The remarkably clear and beautiful Gothic design of its foundations is cross-shaped with two chaples built into each of the cross-angles. Here, assimilation of German and French architectural ideas (The Workshops of Soissons and Rheims) achieved a central structure of perfect harmony.

* The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Some of Germanyís finest buildings date from the 17th and 18th cent. exuberant baroque and rococo churches and palaces that are marvels of lightness and spatial complexity.  Among the best are the works of the Austrian Fischer von Erlach.  Ceiling decoration was widely practiced. The rococo style came to the fore c.1730, with the Tischbein family and Angelica Kauffmann its chief exponents in painting.  At this time, too, small Dresden china figures and groups became very popular, with the workshops at Meissen producing exquisite miniature statuettes of genre subjects. A. R. Mengsís work marked the widespread revival of classicism modeled on the theories of J. J. Winckelmann and on the art of Rome.  Meanwhile, the monumental sculptures of J. G. Schadow were regarded as the model for a century of subsequent German plastic art.

Fig 6. Collegiate church St. Servatius in Quedlinburg

On the castle-hill, a steep sandstone-rock, approximately 25m over the roofs of the city Quedlinburg, rise the towers of the Romance seminary church St. Servatius. Together with the residential premises of the ladies' convent they form a group of buildings of great significance and architectural charm.

The Quedlinburger seminary church, which emerged from a residential chapel of King Heinrich I., was used from 936 until 1803 as a place of worship for the secular ladies convent. The Ottonian rulers frequently celebrated Easter at the graves their ancestors.  For hundreds of years they frequently read here a requieme for them.

* The Nineteenth Century
In the early part of the century J. F. Overbeck, Schadow-Godenhaus, Peter von Cornelius, and Schnorr von Carolsfeld banded together to form the group of Nazarenes active in Rome.  Alfred Rethel became a leader of a school of German historical painting.  He and the realist A. F. E. von Menzel executed woodcuts as well and were responsible for the 19th-century revival of the medium.  The Biedermeier period brought to the fore such genre painters as Moritz von Schwind and Karl Spitzweg.  In the late 19th cent. a new wave of romanticism emerged that had been foreshadowed by the desolate landscapes of C. D. Friedrich and the complex allegories of P. O. Runge. Romanticism was exemplified in architecture by K. F. Schinkel. Romantic painters who were influenced by Italian art included Anselm von Feuerbach and Hans von Marées.

* The Twentieth Century
The sentimental genre scenes and derivative neoclassic artistic production of the 19th cent. were replaced in the 20th cent. by a fresh, more vital sensibility. In the early years of the century the influence of Gauguin was strong. At the same time, English art nouveau design innovations were adopted in the applied arts in Germany and termed jugendstil.  The wave of 20th-century masters that emerged from the Berlin secession, led by Max Liebermann, created an art known as expressionism for its purposeful distortion of natural forms. The expressionist movement came in three waves: the first, the Brücke (1905), included E. L. Kirchner and Emil Nolde; the Blaue Reiter (1911) attracted several foreign artists, such as Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, and Wassily Kandinsky; and in the 1920s Otto Dix and Max Beckmann were principal exponents of the disenchanted realism called the new objectivity. Artists working in related styles included Oskar Kokoschka and Käthe Kollwitz.  Several of these same artists also taught at the Bauhaus, led by Walter Gropius and later by Miës van der Rohe.  This establishment became the chief breeding place of functionalism and encouraged experimentation and abstraction with the ideal of combining artistic beauty with usefulness. The Nazi regime, however, regarding abstract and expressionist works as degenerate, discouraged and destroyed any but heroic, propagandistic art, and the Germany of the 1930s and early 40s produced nothing of artistic significance.  The Bauhaus aesthetic was taught and practiced in the United States by European expatriates and their disciples, while German architecture, massive and dull, glorified the Nazi style.  In the period since World War II the dominant architectural designers have included Hans Scharoun, Helmut Striffler, Werner Duttmann, and Gottfried Bohm. The abstract movement has been led by Willi Baumeister, Theodore Werner, Fritz Winter, E. W. Nay, Winfred Gaul, and G. K. Pfaher.

F. Novotny, Painting and Sculpture in Europe, 1780?1880 (1960);
F. Roh, German Art in the 20th Century (tr. 1968);
G. Lindemann, History of German Art (tr. 1971);
J. Weinstein, The End of Expressionism (1989).

Related Links:
* World Heritage List

* UNESCO Germany

* World Heritage Sites in Germany