Gottfried Semper

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Gottfried Semper
BirthplaceAltona, Hamburg
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Semper, Gottfried


Born Nov. 29, 1803, in Hamburg; died May 15, 1879, in Rome. German architect and art theoretician.

Semper studied in Munich from 1825 to 1826 and in Paris from 1826 to 1828. He was a professor at the Academy of Arts in Dresden from 1834 to 1849. A participant in the Dresden Revolt of 1849, Semper was forced to flee to Paris. He later worked in London (1851), Zurich (1855), and Vienna (1871–76). Semper’s buildings are rationally organized and employ eclectic decorative motifs from Italian Renaissance and baroque art. His buildings in Dresden include the Opera House (1838–41 and 1871–78) and the Semper (picture) Gallery (1847–49). In collaboration with K. von Hasenauer, he designed two museum buildings (1872–81), the Burgtheater (1874–88), and the New Hofburg (1881–1913) in Vienna.

Semper’s theoretical views, influenced by positivism, are expressed in his articles, lectures, and the treatise Style in Technical and Tectonic Art, or Practical Aesthetics (vols. 1–2, 1860–63). Semper criticized the capitalistic division of labor and its consequences. He attributed the decadence of 19th-century architecture and artistic crafts to the separation of art from technology and of decoration from construction. Viewing style as an organic historical phenomenon, he strove to restore the stylistic wholeness of the practical arts. He related laws of form (manifested in symmetry, proportionality, and tectonics) to the materials and techniques employed in creating a work of art and to the work’s ultimate function. Semper’s theory combines the principles of verisimilitude and expedience with an understanding of art as the symbolic “clothing” of constructions and materials. His views influenced many concepts of architecture, artistic crafts, and design at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.


Prakticheskaia estetika. Moscow, 1970, (Translated from German.)


Quitzch, H. Die ästhetischen Anschauungen G. Sempers. Berlin, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
There he absorbed the theories of Karl Botticher and of Gottfried Semper, above all the latter's 'cladding theory', that architecture had evolved from structures hung with decorated fabrics.
Designed by Wagner's architect friend, Gottfried Semper, also responsible for the opera house in Dresden, it was to overlook the Isar River, quite close to the site of the Prince Regents Theatre.
Gottfried Semper, architecte allemand de grande renommee, fut designe pour y enseigner l'architecture, conferant au nouvel etablissement une reputation immediate.
For him, this project was a rare opportunity to focus on the themes of architectural representation and decoration, which he relished, having spent time researching the history and significance of the screen in architecture through the writings of Gottfried Semper and Karl Botticher.
Even Dresden's major synagogue had been designed by the same architect, Gottfried Semper, who was responsible for the famed opera house.
Gottfried Semper: The world-famous architect built the Winterthur Town Hall.
N Pugin and John Ruskin from Great Britain; Henri Labrouste from France; and Gottfried Semper, Carl Botticher, Heinrich Hubsch, August Reichensberger, and Georg Ungewitter from Germany.
Franz Kugler's contemporary Gottfried Semper, far from agreeing with Kugler (or with Kubler) that the crafts and the "fine arts" should be maintained in separate categories, defined "art" as a universal phenomenon.
One of the most fascinating essays, "The Munich Festival Theatre Letters" by Sophie Gobran, describes the 1864 attempt by Ludwig II, the newly crowned King of Bavaria and lifelong admirer of Wagner, to build a greater stone theatre where "the performance of the Ring of the Nibelungen may be perfected." Previously, Wagner had advocated the creation of a more intimate setting for his work, "a provisional theatre as simple as possible, perhaps made merely of wood, and calculated solely for the artistic purpose of what transpires inside." Keen to maintain Ludwig's patronage, however, Wagner recommended Gottfried Semper as the architect for the monumental theatre proposed by the king.