Germany
Art and Architecture in Germany
Photographic Book Germany

Medieval German art and architecture were embedded in the dominant European styles of the time. No monumental painting or sculpture, however, has survived from the earliest period except the 9th-century Carolingian cathedral at Aachen, one of the most important circular buildings in Europe.

The cathedrals of Hildesheim and Magdeburg, the illuminated manuscripts, the sculpture, and the church paintings of the 10th century reflect the spirituality of Byzantine art and architecture. The 11th- and 12th-century cathedrals of Speyer, Goslar, Mainz, and Worms are outstanding examples of the Romanesque style, with rounded arches and dark interiors. The cathedrals of Strasbourg, Trier, and Cologne are fine samples of the Gothic style and its soaring pillars, pointed arches, and flying buttresses. In the 14th century a family of architects and artists, the Parlers, helped spread Gothic designs and sculpture throughout southern Germany, from Ulm to Nürnberg and Prague. During the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, the great German artist Albrecht Dürer created extraordinary woodcuts and copper engravings and pioneered ways of reproducing and disseminating art. Other well-known artists of the time include the painters Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Hans Holbein the Younger, and the superb wood altars and sculptures of Tilman Riemenschneider.

Another style, the opulently ornamented baroque, flourished in the Catholic churches and monasteries and the secular palaces of southern Germany and Austria during the 17th and 18th centuries. Its rich ornamentation accompanied the renewed style of the Catholic church service of the Counter Reformation, which was a reaction to the Protestant preference for stripping churches of statuary and paintings of saints. Andreas Schlüter designed the Royal Palace in Berlin in 1706, and architect Balthasar Neumann built the Bishop’s Residence in Würzburg with a great stair hall and a reception room decorated with ceiling paintings. Outstanding examples of late baroque, or rococo style, include the Wies Church near Munich in southern Bavaria, a vision of light and lightness built by Dominikus Zimmermann, the Benedictine Abbey of Melk on the Danube, and the Royal Zwinger Palace in Dresden, a creation of Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann.

Rococo is distinguished by its fanciful use of curves and light, its flowing asymmetric lines, and its pierced shellwork. In the 19th century, great architects such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed many of the representative buildings in Berlin, and Gottfried Semper pioneered the revival of Renaissance styles in Dresden and Vienna. Artists of the German romantic period include Caspar David Friedrich, who painted meditative landscapes and seascapes, and Carl Spitzweg, who provided humorous glimpses of small-town life.

At the beginning of the 20th century, German art and architecture developed a range of new styles, beginning with the Jugendstil (see Art Nouveau), whose rich and colorful ornamentation and graceful curves left an indelible imprint on the rest of the century. The Bauhaus school of design, under the direction first of Walter Gropius and later of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, pioneered a functional, severely simple architectural style during the years of the Weimar Republic. The Bauhaus also attracted great abstract painters such as Paul Klee and artists from other countries, including Wassily Kandinsky of Russia and American Lyonel Feininger. In addition, the early 1900s produced the bitter caricatures of George Grosz, the tragic graphic art of Käthe Kollwitz, and the expressionist art of groups such as Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).

Mucnich in Germany
Mucnich in Germany. Encarta
Among the leading expressionists were painters Max Beckmann, who produced highly dramatic and energetic paintings, and Emil Nolde, who used contorted brushwork and raw colors to visually shock the viewer. The Nazis pilloried their work as “degenerate art.” As with German literature, nearly every leading figure in art and architecture fled Germany during the Nazi years, and only a few returned after 1945. In postwar Germany, artists of note include sculptor and performance artist Joseph Beuys and painter Anselm Kiefer, who explored themes of the German cultural crisis under dictatorship and total war.
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