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Born May 15, 1816, in Diepenbend, near Aachen; died Dec. 1, 1859, in Düsseldorf. German painter and graphic artist; representative of the Düsseldorf school.
Rethel studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts with F. W. von Schadow from 1829 to 1836 and in Frankfurt am Main with P. Veit from 1836 to 1847. Romantic in character, his severe and powerful art gravitates toward heroic, idealized images from medieval Germany, toward mystical symbolism, and toward monumental stylized forms. It also expresses nationalistic feelings (for example, the frescoes depicting the history of Charlemagne in the Aachen Town Hall, 1840–51). In the cycle of drawings Yet Another Dance of Death (woodcuts, 1849), events from the Revolution of 1848 are depicted in a pessimistic way.