Germany Figurative Arts in Gothic Age Part II

Germany Figurative Arts in Gothic Age Part II

In Bavaria we owe to the very original Hans Stetheiner (who died in 1431) seven churches, listed on his tombstone, all notable for their audacity of spatial proportions (important among them San Martino in Landshut, San Giacomo in Straubing, San Francesco in Salzburg), with naves of equal height, high, airy and bright, almost without decoration and with slender round pillars that give the whole an aspect of unity. On the other hand, in the churches of the Madonna in Munich and Ingolstadt, as well as in the continuation of the cathedral of Regensburg, in an attempt to combine backward elements, derived from the cathedral of Strasbourg, with more recent solutions, the whole does not come to a perfect fusion. Franconia has buildings of various originality (San Giorgio in Dinkelsbühl, San Martino in Amberg, San Lorenzo choir in Nuremberg). A more homogeneous school instead operated in Upper Saxony, with intense constructive activity, in the sudden well-being produced by the opening of the silver mines. The parish churches of the city in the mining area, such as Zwickau, Freiberg, Schneeberg, Annaberg, Marienberg, built between the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, have widely spaced pillars, naves of equal height, choir and central body united: they offer a vast environment for preaching, with complete renunciation of any external pomp. It seems that in these churches there is a Protestant spirit prior to the Reformation and a sense of spatial relations prior to the German Renaissance.

Secular architecture gained importance. The passage from the feudal lordships to the city bourgeoisie made the castle take second place with respect to the city buildings, both private and public. Of the former, secured by portals, loggias and pergolas, many have survived in the old German cities; of the latter, which with the continuous material and moral increase of the bourgeoisie incessantly increased in size and monumentality, there are enough left to give us an idea of ​​the variety and splendor of life at that time. Good examples are the municipal buildings of Regensburg (v.), Of Nuremberg (v.) With additions from the Renaissance, of Brunswick (v.), Of Münster, of Aachen (v.), Of Lubeck (v.), Of Lüneburg, etc., the House of Merchants in Constance (v.), The House of Grain in Nuremberg, the hospital of the Holy Spirit in Lübeck, the school of Wismar. In their style we can see the influence of the material used – wood, stone, brick – and the action of the currents of sacred architecture.

The development of bourgeois life, the freeing of painting and sculpture from the architectural function contributed to the luxuriant flowering of the figurative arts, while a rigorous corporate organization favored craftsmanship, without depressing the personality of the artists. Regional traditions continued to develop through a logical succession of stylistic phases. The period begins in painting with an international style (about 1400) which includes the master of Saint Veronica in Cologne, Conrad of Soest in Westphalia, the master of the gold table in Lüneburg, Mastro Franco in Hamburg, the master of the little paradise in Frankfurt, the altar master of Ortenberg in Darmstadt, the altar master of Tiefenbron (Luca Moser) and Stefano Lochner, which represents the transition period to the second phase. Characteristic of the latter is the effort to take possession of the plastic and perspective values ​​of the single figure and of the space, thus clearly distinguishing itself from the previous period characterized by abstract and linear tendencies. Corrado Witz from Rottweil, who worked between 1418 and 1446 and trained in the Burgundian-Flemish school, belong to this further phase; the “Tüchermeister” of Nuremberg; Hans Multscher from Ulm. The next generation, which operated around the middle of the century, is under the preponderant influence of Flemish painting in the manner of Roger van der Weyden and Dirk Bouts. Spatial composition and pathetic expression become the main purpose of painting, calmer, richer in feeling, but weaker, in comparison with the impetus of the previous phase; while in sculpture two currents – one robust and severe, the other pathetic and exuberant – variously interpenetrate. Among the painters are to be remembered, Caspar Iseman in Colmar, Hans Pleydenwurff in Nuremberg, Hans Schüchlin in Ulm, Rueland Früauf in Passau, the master of the Life of Mary in Cologne; among the sculptors, Nicola Gerhaert, active in the regions of the Upper Rhine and in Vienna, and Jörg Syrlin the Elder in Ulm. At the same time, the differences between the various regional schools are accentuated. Especially after the third quarter of the century, the two schools of southern Germany and northern Germany, hitherto joined, separate: while the first passes under the complete dominion of Flemish painting, the second is divided into various other regional currents in Franconia.

According to, the long industriousness of three generations of artists and the confirmation of regional characteristics led, at the end of the century, to the affirmation of strong individualities in each region; Martino Schongauer works in Alsace, in the upper and middle Rhineland two anonymous artists, the master “ES” and the master of the house book (Hausbuchmeister), in Ulm Bartolomeo Zeitblom, in Augusta Hans Holbein the Elder, in Nuremberg Michele Wolgemut, in Tyrol Michele Pacher; the latter tends towards Italian forms and joins painting with sculpture, both united in the altarpieces.

In the field of sculpture Nuremberg excels with three great masters: Veit Stoss, Pietro Vischer the Elder and Adamo Kraft; to these are added Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg, Jörg Syrlin the Elder and Gregory Erhart in Ulm and Erasmo Grasser, active in Bavaria. Southern Germany, on the other hand, which also has a considerable painter in the master of the Holy Family of Cologne, has a secondary place in sculpture. The predominance in this period belongs to northern Germany and its late Gothicism which consumes, without any restraint, its last vitality in countless isolated manifestations.

The picture of German artistic activity of this period must be completed with other features. The minor arts reach great perfection in all fields: in bronze works, goldsmithing, ceramics, glass art and textiles the century. XV was a golden century, in which the strength of tradition and the autonomy of the individual were equally balanced. But even more important for the last Gothic period was the engraving. Both in the history of woodcut and in that of copper engraving, Germany is in first place. The beginnings of German woodcut date back to the beginning of the century. XV; those of engraving to the next generation; that is, to the activity of the notable master of playing cards that stylistically corresponds to the art of Corrado Witz. This happens, from 1466 onwards, the master ES and finally, in the last quarter of the century, Martino Schongauer and the master of the house book. It responded to the character of German art to make use of woodcut and engraving for the dissemination of ideas and knowledge. The great art, to which the engraving on copper and wood was joined by its major masters, was brought to the attention of all the people, while both secular and religious culture obtained a means of immense diffusion. Like architecture, engraving set the stage for the impending Reformation and Renaissance.

Germany Figurative Arts in Gothic Age 2

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