Wednesday, 26 March 2014

"beyond the bed of Procrustes of topical and ideological art" - the Painter Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld


26 March 1794, 220 years ago, the painter Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld was born in Leipzig.
  “The picture which has the nobler and more numerous ideas, however awkwardly expressed, is a greater and a better picture than that which has the less noble and less numerous ideas, however beautifully expressed." (John Ruskin)



Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: “Portrait of Frau Klara Bianka von Quandt with a lute” (1820)



Students of the various renowned 19th century art academies in Europe had found a common thread from Madrid to St Petersburg in protesting against the prevalent curricula and teaching methods. In short – they found them bloodless. The following peculiarities of the disciples’ protests in art varied quite widely from country to country and generation to generation, though, and a decidedly Christian motivated movement was more or less a singularity, nevertheless, the Nazarene movement among early 19th century German Romantic painters grew to be quite influential in art as well as in popular imagination of religious imagery. The renewal of art in the spirit of Christianity along the lines of the great masters of the late Medieval and early Renaissance period predated and paralleled the development of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England and the works of the individual artists often look quite similar in the range of motives as well as execution albeit without the sublime erotic prevalent among the Pre-Raphaelites.



Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: “The Frankish Army under Charlemagne in the City of Paris” (1817 - 1827)



Among the likes of Overbeck, von Cornelius and Veit, Schnorr von Carolsfeld made an extraordinary appearance. Besides being the only artist among the Nazarene Movement who drew and painted nudes more than once, he was far from committed to the sole depiction of religious motifs. History paintings alternate with mythological portrayals such as illustrations of the “Nibelungenlied” and, as common denominator of his work, Schnorr von Carolsfeld was one of the best landscape artists of the 19th century. Not in terms of vedute, though, the detailed rendition of a place, but the detailed blending of a place into a sublime entirety of a scene. And while most of the art of the Nazarene Movement and their successors had degenerated into religious Kitsch when the new century dawned, Schnorr von Carolsfeld remained, along with Doré, the most influential Bible illustrator of the age but an artist beyond the bed of Procrustes of topical and ideological art.