Cultured Wednesday: Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s most famous extant buildings are found in and around Berlin.

If you have ever visited or seen pictures of Berlin, Germany, you most likely have seen a building drafted, re-designed or approved by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussian city planner, architect and painter. Born on 13 March 1781 in Neuruppin, Schinkel was one of the most prominent neoclassical and neogothic architects of 19th century Germany and despite his influence and achievements, people still think he had even more potential that he could not live up to due to the political circumstances of his time.

Medieval City on a River, 1815

Schinkels most famous extant buildings in and around the German capital include the Neue Wache (1816–1818), the National Monument for the Liberation Wars (1818–1821), the Schauspielhaus (1819–1821) at the Gendarmenmarkt and the Altes Museum on Museum Island (1823–1830). He also carried out improvements to the Crown Prince’s Palace and to Schloss Charlottenburg.

The header to this post shows Schinkel’s stage set for the 1st Act of Mozart’s Magic Flute, dated 1815 just like the above painting, a design that is still quoted by modern-day stage designers when planning the set for this opera. We find his style quite wholesome, a good example of a time when people still had a clear idea of what was good and beautiful, and pleasing in an aesthetic sense, as well as where such ideas originated in the first place.

Castle by the River 1820

Schinkel, like so many artists of the 19th century, traveled a lot in Europe and particularly to Italy, the landscape and cities of which were and still are especially inspiring, it seems – just look at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his love for Italy, for instance. Of course, Goethe and Schinkel met and respected each other, in fact, the list of names the family Schinkel were acquainted with reads almost like a who-is-who of Germany’s 19th century artistic and royal circles. But returning to the Italian influences, Schinkel’s style, generally speaking, was defined rather by a turn to Greek than Roman architecture. “He believed”, they claim in his Wikipedia entry, “that in order to avoid sterility and have a soul, a building must contain elements of the poetic and the past, and have a discourse with them.” I guess the same kind of discourse between tradition and poetry can be found in his paintings if you are able to discern Nature’s voice in the lay of the land, or the trees that surround Schinkel’s painted buildings.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel died on 9 October 1841 in Berlin, leaving behind his wife Susanne and four children, three girls and a boy, the youngest daughter being 19 years old at the time. He was buried in the Dorotheenstädtischen Friedhof in Berlin-Center, where twenty years later his wife was laid to rest along with their two older daughters.

The Schinkel grave in Berlin

Eventually, several generations of architects from Berlin who were influenced by Schinkel’s style were classified as the “Schinkelschule“. So, if you ever visit Germany’s capital, keep a look out for building designed or re-designed by Schinkel, or later on built true to Schinkel’s style.

Cultured Wednesday: Aagaard’s Forests

Aagaard’s work is especially notable for his inclusion of historical architecture and ruins, which he often located in epic and romantic milieu.

Carl Frederik Peder Aagaard (born 29 January 1833 in Odense on the Danish island of Funen, died 2 November 1895 in Copenhagen) was an incredible Danish painter.  His paintings focus on Northern European forests and waterways, and they often include  historical buildings, even like the water mill or farm house in the example below.

spring forest

Tree-and-water lovers know this kind of light, and what it is like to sit by the brook or lake under the trees in spring, when the light falls through them just like this…  It was no big surprise to learn that Carl Frederik Aagaard had lived some time with his brother, who was a woodcutter, in order to improve his painting (and observation) skills.

Spring, and with it the kind of light depicted in the painting, is not quite here yet, but January is about over and soon we shall know if spring will come early the year, or if winter will linger for another six weeks.


Cultured Wednesday: Artists Colony Worpswede

Today we would like to introduce you to the Kuenstlerdorf Worpswede and a group of painters who were inspired by this little village in the north of Germany, and its surrounding moor called Teufelsmoor, or Devil’s Bog.

Today we would like to introduce you to the Kuenstlerdorf Worpswede and a group of painters who were inspired by this little village in the north of Germany, and its surrounding moor called Teufelsmoor, or Devil’s Bog.

Otto Modersohn: Herbst im Moor (1895)

Two of the early painters of the colony were Otto Modersohn, who painted the above “Autumn on the Moor” in 1895, and Carl Vinnen, who painted the following painting called “Moonlit Night” around 1900.

Carl Vinnen-Mondnacht-1900
Carl Vinnen: Mondnacht (1900)

Fritz Mackensen is credited with having been the first painter who settled there, and here is one of his paintings titled “Church Service Outside”:

Mackensen Gottestdienst im Freien
Fritz Mackensen: Gottestdienst im Freien

You should already get an idea of the kind of landscape these painters were influenced by:  It was somewhat bleak, like moors tend to be, with a wild and also implicitly dangerous beauty.  On a sandy dune in the midst of this lonely place, a few cottages sat at the foot of an old, equally sandy  hill, misleadingly called Weyerberg (54.4 meters (178 ft),

Bluehendes_Buchweizenfeld Fritz Overbeck 1900
Fritz Overbeck: Bluehendes Buchweizenfeld (1900)

and the farmers were eking out a meager existence which included growing buckwheat and cutting peat which was shipped down the small river Hamme towards the nearby city of Bremen.  You can still take tours on the Hamme river in the kind of boats they used, as depicted below:

Fritz Mackensen Torfkaene auf der Hamme 1904
Fritz Mackensen: Torfkaene auf der Hamme (1904)

At the time, everything seemed up in the air, to a degree, and painters as well as poets, sculptors and composers expressed the emotions that came with the dawning of a new century in various ways, some more hopeful than others.  The spring painting below was painted by Hans am Ende around 1900, and he also painted the featured image entitled “Weites Land” (Open Country) around that time.

Hans_am_Ende Fruehling in Worpswede 1900
Hans am Ende: Fruehling in Worpswede (1900)

But not only painters settled in Worpswede for a time.  The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was one of the artists that made his home in Worpswede for a while, where he married the sculptor Clara Westhoff.  The above mentioned Modersohn married another painter, Paula BeckerHeinrich Vogeler, among other things an architect, lefts his mark on the village, much like architect Bernhard Hoetger who also designed the Böttcherstraße in nearby Bremen.  Below you can see Vogeler’s famous painting “Sommerabend” (summer evening), in which some of the artists mentioned are portrayed:

Heinrich_Vogeler_Sommerabend 1905
Heinrich Vogeler: Sommerabend (1905)

The painting shows a concert on the porch of the Barkenhoff where Vogeler lived.  The house had become the center of the early artists colony.  Center front you see Vogeler’s wife Martha dreamily gazing into space.  At her her feet lies her dog, a Russian Barsoi.  Vogeler painted himself half hidden on the far right, playing the cello, on his left his brother Franz is playing the violin, while his brother-in-law Martin is playing the flute.  On the left you see, left to right, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Agnes Wulff und Clara Rilke-Westhoff.  The bearded gentleman in the background is Otto Modersohn.

As you might have noticed, birches feature prominently in many paintings of the moor, and the brooks along which they grow, as well as thatch-roofed houses that can still be seen in and around the area.  Very picturesque, indeed, both in the spring and in the fall.

Hans am Ende: Birken am Moorgraben (1896)

Later on, the artists went quite diverse ways, ranging from Heinrich Vogler becoming a communist to Fritz Mackensen joining the Nazi party, so a more biographic approach to the painters involved would surely take us too far for a modest introduction such as this.

Worpswede is still an artists colony, but also a tourist attraction these days.  Worth a visit, I dare say, if you are ever in the area.  🙂

Cultured Wednesday: Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole was a 19th-century painter known for his landscape and history paintings, which is why we picked him for today’s art feature.

Thomas Cole, born February 1, 1801 in Lancashire, UK, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1818, settling in Steubenville, Ohio.  Later, he moved first to Philadelphia and then to Catskill, NY, where he lived with his wife and children until his death on February 11, 1848.  The fourth highest peak in the Catskills is named Thomas Cole Mountain in his honor.

two lakes
A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning. 1844

Thomas Cole was a painter known for his landscape and history paintings, which is why we picked him for today’s art feature.  He was largely self-taught as a painter, and look how wonderful his landscapes are!  This is an imaginary scene from The Last of the Mohicans:

Imaginary Scene from The Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tanemund. 1827

He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, and known for his romantic portrayal of the American wilderness.  The painters of the Hudson River School believed that the natural world was a gift from God, and faithfully depicting its wonders was a high calling.  “Faithfully depicting” doesn’t mean photographically accurate, however, for such paintings are known as “topographical landscapes”.  That’s a whole different ballgame.

romantic tower
Romantic Landscape with Ruined Tower. 1832–36

But he also painted what is known as “allegorical works”.  The most famous of these are The Course of the Empire and The Voyage of Life.  If you follow the links, you can see all the paintings; I will only give an example of each here.  First, the last of The Course of the Empire paintings called “Desolation”:

The Course of Empire: Desolation. 1836

And of The Voyage of Life, we chose “Manhood”:

The Voyage of Life Manhood 1842
The Voyage of Life: Manhood. 1842

Cole was also a poet and dabbled in architecture:  He entered a suggestion in the design competition held in 1838 to create the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.  His entry won third place, and many contend that the finished building, a composite of the first-, second-, and third-place entries, bears a great similarity to Cole’s entry.  The painting below might have something to do with this little episode:

arcitects dream
The Architect’s Dream. 1840

Compare the Ohio Statehouse in this photo (shame about the ugly skyscraper…):

ohio statehouse
Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, OH

Lastly, the featured image again, un-cropped.  This is actually my favorite because if you’d offer us this place to move in, or even the spot by the water to build our own cabin on, we’d immediately kick out the fire, call the dogs and head there.

Home in the Woods, 1847

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