Matthias Grünewald

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Grünewald, Matthias


(real name Mathis Nithardt, Nithart, Neithardt, or Neithart; c. 1505 given the name Gothardt or Gothart). Born circa 1470–75 in Würzburg, Bavaria; died Aug. 31, 1528, in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. German Renaissance painter. Since the 17th century erroneously known by the name Grünewald.

Grünewald worked in Aschaffenburg (Bavaria), Frankfurt am Main, and Mainz (Hesse). From 1508 to 1525 (or 1526) he served as court painter, artistic adviser, architect, and hydraulic engineer for the Mainz archbishops and electors. In 1525–26 he was subjected to persecution for sympathizing with the Peasant War of 1524–26 and for possibly siding with the insurgents.

Grünewald’s art had close ties with the ideology of the lower classes and with late medieval mystical heresies, which, on the eve of the Reformation in Germany, were permeated with an antifeudal rebelliousness. His representations of Christ, filled with suffering and pain, are imbued with a spirit of protest, as are his saints, who are portrayed in ordinary human terms. In his art, Grünewald reflected the tragic and emotional spirit of his times and achieved a revolutionizing impact by using the agitated and expressive vocabulary of late Gothic art, which he developed and enriched in conformity with the new, increasingly complex conditions of his time.

The nine panels of the Isenheim Altarpiece (1512–15, Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France) occupy a central place in his work. The altarpiece depicts scenes of the Passion that are suffused with spiritualism, tragic tension, and hopeless despair (Crucifixion) along with scenes imbued with ecstatic joy and exultation of life and a pantheistic perception of nature (Nativity). The clearly mystical representation of Christ that seems to be dissolving in a flash of bright light (Resurrection) gives way to figures of greater clarity, regularity, and humanity (St. Sebastian). Grünewald used a nervous Gothic linear style and bold colors against a dark background in some parts of the altarpiece and gentle color transitions and a soft, almost watercolor technique in others. This use of color to break up what seemed to be infinite spatial depth opened up new possibilities in painting.

The clarity and monumental forms of his subsequent works reflect the influence of Italian Renaissance art (Virgin of Stup-pach, 1517–19, Parish Church, Stuppach; Meeting of St. Erasmus and St. Mauritius, c. 1518, Alte Pinakothek, Munich). In his late works he once again turned to the theme of the Passion and to the vocabulary of late Gothic painting (Tauberbischofsheim Altarpiece, 1523–24, Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe; Mourning Over the Body of Christ, 1524–25, Parish Church, Aschaffenburg). The few drawings by Grünewald that have survived are, for the most part, preliminary studies (Woman With Folded Hands, black chalk, O. Reinhart Collection, Winterthur). They are distinguished by picturesque chiaroscuro modeling and gentle technique. Some of his drawings are extremely detailed, while others exhibit an unconstrained sketchlike character.


Nemilov, A. N. Griuneval’d. Moscow, 1972.
Schmid, H. A. Die Gemälde und Zeichnungen von Matthias Grünewald, vols. 1–2. Strasbourg, 1907–11.
Zülch, W. K. Grünewald: Der historische Grünewald…. Munich, 1938.
Vogt, A. M. Grünewald: Meister gegenklassischer Malerei. Zurich-Stuttgart, 1957.
Scheja, G. Der Isenheimer Altar des Mathias Grünewald. Cologne, 1969.
Ruhmer, E. Grünewald: Zeichnungen. Cologne, 1971.


References in periodicals archive ?
This particular painting by the enigmatic Mathias Grunewald exerted considerable influence on modern artists such as Pablo Picasso and Graham Sutherland.
Sy skakel die ketel aan en probeer die beeld van die lee graf, die een langs die bekende The crucifixion van Mathias Grunewald, uit haar gedagtes verban.
In this wide-ranging, clearly written, genially ecumenical survey, Jensen (Professor of the History of Christian Art at Vanderbilt Divinity School), tackles both the theory and practice of Christian art, from the 3rd century catacombs to the Iconoclast heresy to medieval cathedrals to Mathias Grunewald to Edwina Sandys's 1974 sculpture of a (naked) female crucified Christ.
Part of the brief but brilliant movement known as renaissance of the North, which included Albert Durer and Mathias Grunewald, Holbein was able to grasp and depict the human image in a way that eluded his contemporaries (4).
Pablo Picasso asked Brassai, "Do you know the Crucifixion of Mathias Grunewald, the central panel of the altar of Isenheim?
More problematic is the treatment of Paul Hindemith's opera and symphony Mathis der Maler, listed under "Antonius der Grosse" but not under a subject heading for Mathias Grunewald as a historical person; in the entry under "Antonius," though, Reischert mentions the Isenheim Altarpiece and its painter, who is listed in the index of artists (as is Hogarth).
Pocas obras pictoricas muestran criaturas tan monstruosas como La tentacion de san Antonio que el aleman Mathias Grunewald pinto entre 1515 y 1516 y que actualmente se encuentra en el museo Unterlinden, de Colmar, ciudad francesa ubicada en el limite con la popular Schwartzwald (la "selva negra" de Alemania, cuyos lugubres parajes dieron, durante la Edad Media, origen a siniestras leyendas).