German art and architecture

German art and architecture,

artistic works produced within the region that became politically unified as Germany in 1871 generally followed the stylistic currents of Western Europe.

The Carolingian and Ottonian Periods

Carolingian architecture and artCarolingian architecture and art,
art forms and structures created by the Carolingians. Toward the beginning of the Carolingian Period, in the 8th cent., a gradual change appeared in Western culture and art, a change that later reached its apex under Charlemagne.
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 are commonly considered to have been the earliest manifestations of discernibly Germanic art. As the center of Charlemagne's 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 architectureEarly Christian art and architecture,
works of art exhibiting Christian themes and structures designed for Christian worship created relatively soon after the death of Jesus. Most date from the 4th to the 6th cent. A.D. See also Christian iconography under iconography.
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). 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 illuminationsillumination,
in art, decoration of manuscripts and books with colored, gilded pictures, often referred to as miniatures (see miniature painting); historiated and decorated initials; and ornamental border designs.
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 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 paintingminiature painting
[Ital.,=artwork, especially manuscript initial letters, done with the red lead pigment minium; the word originally had no implication as to size].
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 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. Michael's 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.

The Romanesque and Gothic Periods

Romanesque architecture and artRomanesque architecture and art,
the artistic style that prevailed throughout Europe from the 10th to the mid-12th cent., although it persisted until considerably later in certain areas.
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 flourished in Germany, and the cathedrals in basilicabasilica
, large building erected by the Romans for transacting business and disposing of legal matters. Rectangular in form with a roofed hall, the building usually contained an interior colonnade, with an apse at one end or at each end.
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 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 (see Gothic architecture and artGothic architecture and art,
structures (largely cathedrals and churches) and works of art first created in France in the 12th cent. that spread throughout Western Europe through the 15th cent., and in some locations into the 16th cent.
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), 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.

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 glassstained glass,
in general, windows made of colored glass. To a large extent, the name is a misnomer, for staining is only one of the methods of coloring employed, and the best medieval glass made little use of it.
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 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 paintinglandscape painting,
portrayal of scenes found in the natural world; these scenes are treated as the subject of the work of art rather than as an element in another kind of painting. Early Landscapes

In the West, the concept of landscape grew very slowly.
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 into vogue), Lucas Cranach the elder, and Hans Baldung were the great masters of the age. Gothic architecture prevailed so long in Germany that when the Church of St. Michael's in Munich was built (c.1590), the Renaissance and mannerist periods had already ended, and early baroquebaroque
, in art and architecture, a style developed in Europe, England, and the Americas during the 17th and early 18th cent.

The baroque style is characterized by an emphasis on unity among the arts.
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 churches, heavily influenced by Italian design, were being constructed.

The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Some of Germany's finest buildings date from the 17th and 18th cent.—exuberant baroque and rococorococo
, style in architecture, especially in interiors and the decorative arts, which originated in France and was widely used in Europe in the 18th cent. The term may be derived from the French words rocaille and coquille
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 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 MeissenMeissen
, city (1994 pop. 33,075), Saxony, E central Germany, on the Elbe River. A porcelain manufacturing center since 1710, Meissen is famous for its delicate figurines (often called "Dresden" china); the industry is supported by local deposits of kaolin and potter's earth.
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 producing exquisite miniature statuettes of genregenre
, in art-history terminology, a type of painting dealing with unidealized scenes and subjects of everyday life. Although practiced in ancient art, as shown by Pompeiian frescoes, and in the Middle Ages, genre was not recognized as worthy and independent subject matter
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 subjects. A. R. Mengs's 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.

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 NazarenesNazarenes
, group of German artists of the early 19th cent., who attempted to revive Christian art. In 1809, J. F. Overbeck and Franz Pforr formed an art cooperative in Vienna called the Brotherhood of St. Luke.
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 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 BiedermeierBiedermeier
, name applied, at first in a joking spirit, to a period of European culture and a style of furniture, decoration, and art originating in Germany early in the 19th cent. and especially popular there and in Austria.
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 period brought to the fore such genre painters as Moritz von Schwind and Carl 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 nouveauart nouveau
, decorative-art movement centered in Western Europe. It began in the 1880s as a reaction against the historical emphasis of mid-19th-century art, but did not survive World War I.
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 design innovations were adopted in the applied arts in Germany and termed jugendstil.

The wave of 20th-century masters that emerged from the Berlin secessionsecession,
in art, any of several associations of progressive artists, especially those in Munich, Berlin, and Vienna, who withdrew from the established academic societies or exhibitions. The artists of Munich formed a secession in 1892 that spread to other German cities.
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, led by Max Liebermann, created an art known as expressionismexpressionism,
term used to describe works of art and literature in which the representation of reality is distorted to communicate an inner vision. The expressionist transforms nature rather than imitates it.
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 for its purposeful distortion of natural forms. The expressionist movement came in three waves: the first, the BrückeBrücke, Die
[Ger.,=the bridge], German expressionist art movement, lasting from 1905 to 1913. Influenced by the art of Jugendstil (the German equivalent of art nouveau), Van Gogh, and the primitive sculpture of Africa and the South Seas, the Brücke
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 (1905), included E. L. Kirchner and Emil Nolde; the Blaue ReiterBlaue Reiter, der
[Ger.,=the blue rider], German expressionist art movement, lasting from 1911 to 1914. It took its name from a painting by Kandinsky, Le cavalier bleu.
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 (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 objectivitynew objectivity
(Ger. Neue Sachlichkeit), German art movement of the 1920s. The chief painters of the movement were George Grosz and Otto Dix, who were sometimes called verists.
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. Artists working in related styles included Oskar Kokoschka and Käthe Kollwitz.

Several of these same artists also taught at the BauhausBauhaus
, artists' collective and school of art and architecture in Germany (1919–33). The Bauhaus revolutionized art training by combining the teaching of classic arts with the study of crafts.
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, led by Walter Gropius and later by Miës van der Rohe. This establishment became the chief breeding place of functionalismfunctionalism,
in art and architecture, an aesthetic doctrine developed in the early 20th cent. out of Louis Henry Sullivan's aphorism that form ever follows function. Functionalist architects and artists design utilitarian structures in which the interior program dictates the
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 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.


See 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).

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As in the Soviet Union under Stalin, Hitler, an amateur artist and architect in his youth, was determined that German art and architecture would symbolize and represent the ideals of German culture under the Third Reich.
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