Adam Elsheimer

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Elsheimer, Adam


Born Mar. 18, 1578, in Frankfurt; died Dec. 11, 1610, in Rome. German painter.

Elsheimer studied under F. Uffenbach in Frankfurt. He worked in Venice from 1598 to 1600 and in Rome from 1600. Most of his paintings are small-scale works, mainly on copper, in a painstaking style reminiscent of the miniature. He produced religious and mythological scenes, usually in simple, domestic settings, such as Jupiter and Mercury in the Home of Philemon and Baucis (Dresden Picture Gallery). In his landscapes he combined his poetic and intimate perception of nature with precise three-dimensional composition, for example, Landscape With Round Temple (National Gallery, Prague). Especially characteristic of Elsheimer’s works were his night scenes, noted for their exceptional soft chiaroscuro transitions. They include Flight Into Egypt (1609, Old Pinakothek, Munich). Elsheimer had a significant influence on such masters as Claude Lorraine, Rembrandt, and Rubens.


Weizsäcker, H. Adam Elsheimer, der Maler von Frankfurt, vols. 1 (books 1–2) and 2. Berlin, 1936–52.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The impact of Rome upon the trajectory of seventeenth-century art cannot be overstated: between 1600 and 1610, the city welcomed such canonical painters as Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), a Bolognese pioneer in the idealized landscape; Michelangelo da Caravaggio (1571-1610), a Milanese revolutionary who depicted sacred characters as rough, earthly figures; Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610), a German artist who populated lush landscapes with dramatic narratives of gods and Old Testament patriarchs on an intimate scale; and Pieter van Laer (1599-1642), a Dutchman who incorporated the peasants and animals of the campagna into small genre scenes.
Caption:--Newscom/akg-images: "The Three Marys at the Tomb of Christ" by German artist Adam Elsheimer, circa 1603
He also namechecks the aforementioned Bohemian Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77), the German 18th-century etcher Carl Wilhelm Kolbe (1759-1835) and 'anything after Adam Elsheimer [1578-1610]'.
Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) "is one of the unsung heroes in the history of Western European art," notes the foreword to this exhibition catalogue, although he is sometimes credited with being an influence on Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens.
A chance to view the paintings of Adam Elsheimer, the German miniaturist (1578-1610) who had a profound influence on other Renaissance artists including Rubens, Rembrandt and Claude Lorrain.
The second juxtaposes secular and sacred forms in its approach to courtly nighttime entertainments in the reign of France's Charles IX; to the painterly arts of Antoine Caron, Georges de La Tour, and Adam Elsheimer which depict crepuscular realism; and to collections of popular tales deigned to be read at evening firesides, such as Guillaume Bouchet's Serees and Estienne Tabourot's Les escraignes dijonnaises.
The great German painter in Rome, Adam Elsheimer, breathed new life into this tradition with two beautiful and much-imitated compositions, set in lush forests.
Others have a touching immediacy, such as Adam Elsheimer's drawing TheArtist in Despair (Staatliehe Graphische Sammlung, Munich), which shows the melancholy painter, surrounded by his unruly children, struggling to find inspiration, or Michelangelo Cerquozzi's Self Portrait (Pallavicini Collection, Rome), in which he shows himself painting from the live model- an old and bearded man posing, clearly with great discomfort, as St Jerome.
The numerous verifiable details which Sandrart supplies attest to his accuracy and, according to Sandrart, Adam Elsheimer was born four years before his baptism in 1674.
Adam Elsheimer is one of the least known of the great European painters.
No artist in western painting is so important but so obscure as Adam Elsheimer. The presentation of all but three of his pictures in an exhibition shown first in his native Frankfurt and now at the National Gallery of Scotland is an event of exceptional significance for furthering our understanding of the baroque age.