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: Diefenbach’s Fairy Dance

Diefenbach was an early ‘Lebensreformer’ and an amazing painter.

The fairy dance, 1895

Karl Wilhelm von Diefenbach is probably primarily known for his involvement and role in the back-to-nature movement of the end of the 19th century, but today, we are primarily interested in his paintings.  Incidentally, he was by no means the only painter in the Lebensreform movement.

The paintings of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach carry a special mood.  He painted beautiful landscapes, often the coastlines of Capri, Italy, where he spent the last 14 years of his life, but he also did a lot of mythical paintings, sometimes combined with self portraits.

Diefenbach was born in Hessen, Germany, on 21 February 1851 – incidentally, that’s the day after tomorrow 169 years ago, so Happy Birthday! – and was, according to the Wiki, “a pioneer of the naturist and the peace movements. His country commune, Himmelhof, in Ober Sankt Veit near Vienna (1897–1899) was one of the models for the reform settlement Monte Verità in Ascona. His ideas included life in harmony with nature and rejection of monogamy, turning away from any religion (although he was a follower of theosophy), and a vegetarian diet.”  After his commune had to close, he moved to Capri where he died on 15 December 1913.

The Fairy Dance (presumably ‘Feentanz’) does not contain a self portrait, I would assume, but it definitely has a mythical quality in the very choice of colors and the amazing dynamic of the dance, not to mention the motive.  Just notice the tree branches bending, and how the color of the fairies and their magic dance repeats on the rocky slopes of the mountains.

Click the picture above for a closer look.  If you go to Diefenbach’s Wikimedia Commons page, you will find a good many more paintings of his.

Cultured Wednesday: Carus’ Vollmond bei Pillnitz

Atmosphere. It bypasses cerebral knowledge and speaks instead to different levels within Man.

I remember this painting from way back when.  There is nothing more moody or enchanting than predominantly blue paintings with a little yellow…

Vollmond bei Pillnitz

Carl Gustav Carus (3 January 1789 – 28 July 1869), German painter of the Romantic era from Leipzig, Germany, was a friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s and, much like Goethe, a many-sided man: a doctor, a naturalist, a scientist, a psychologist, and a landscape painter who studied under Caspar David Friedrich.  In the latter capacity, we meet him today.  Many of his works are well worth attention, so the ones presented here are just meant as examples and incentives to look at Carus further.  I’ll add another one that I particularly like for its atmosphere.  It speaks of the Cistercians and reminds me of a place close to where I grew up, the Kloster Hude:


According to the Wiki, Uncle Carl credited Carus with pointing to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche.  It reflects in his paintings, I dare say.

Although various philosophers, among them Leibniz, Kant, and Schelling, had already pointed very clearly to the problem of the dark side of the psyche, it was a physician who felt impelled, from his scientific and medical experience, to point to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche. This was C. G. Carus, the authority whom Eduard von Hartmann followed.

~ C.G. Jung


Featured:  Crop of Carus’ painting of a Stone Age Mound.

Cultured Wednesday: Hacker’s Smithy in Winter

A native of Saxony, Hacker appears to have lived in Munich, Bavaria from 1862 onward.

Horst Hacker - Schmiede im Winter
Horst Hacker Schmiede im Winter, 1897

Not much can be found online about the German painter and art collector Horst Bernhard Hacker safe that he was born on 8 April 1842 in Plaußig near Leipzig, Saxony, and that he passed away on 18 December 1906 in Munich, Bavaria.  He saw the turn of the last century, a time since dubbed fin de siècle in the world of politics, art and culture, a period of degeneration as well as of hope for a new beginning, and also a period much discussed at the turn of the 20th century, as can be imagined.

How much or in what way Hacker was influenced by the ‘turn-of-the-century’ mood we do not know; his Schmiede im Winter (Smithy in Winter), which he painted in the late 19th century and which exists in at least two versions, can be viewed as representing the largely pre-technological world, an idyllic setting of the lonely homestead outside the village by the frozen stream.

Wikimedia has a few more of Hacker’s paintings listed, as well as his portrait as it appeared in the catalog of the Jahrhundertausstellung that took place in 1906.  Maybe his face can tell you something more about him, or you can choose to just enjoy his painting.  Clicking the painting above will take you to a much larger image that shows brush strokes and technicalities of the painting very well, if you are interested in such things.

Horst Bernhard Hacker

Cultured Wednesday: Böhmer’s Autumn Woodland

Heinrich Böhmer liked his woods, especially in the fall, it seems.

heinrich-boehmer - Edited.jpg

Heinrich Böhmer, born in Düsseldorf in 1852, was a German landscape painter, “best known for his immaculately rendered and realistic landscape paintings of the dense woods of Germany”, they say on artnet.  He was a prolific artist, producing dozens of small oil works.  In a typical Germanic manner, he focused on the emotional quality of the forest: He didn’t see board feet when he looked at trees.  Böhmer died in Germany in 1930.

Remember Tolkien vs. Ayn Rand.

Cultured Wednesday: Wex’ Königsee

The grand beauty of the German Alps were this German painter’s favorite subject.

Willibald Wex was a 19th century Bavarian landscape painter.  He was born in Karlstein am Main in 1831, educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and died in Munich in 1892.  Most of his paintings portray the awe-inspiring beauty of the German Alps.  We chose one that pictures the Königsee, painted around 1873.

Wex Koenigsee
Willibald Wex: Königsee, c. 1873

The contrast between the lake and the mountains struck us as particularly beautiful.  Besides, the people in their smallness are yet not insignificant enough to not deserve a careful reflection in the deep blue water of the lake.

Willibald Wex started out as a forester before he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich to become a painter.  He taught his son Adalbert his craft, and in time Adalbert Wex became a well-known painter himself who focused on alpine landscapes much like his father, but in a more melancholy manner, painting sunsets and evening moods instead of the clear grandeur of the day as portrayed above.

Cultured Wednesday: Spitzweg’s Poor Poet

Meet one of Spitzweg’s fine eccentrics.

Knowing full well that this is arguably one of his most well known paintings, we still decided on Carl Spitzweg‘s The Poor Poet for today’s post.  This is not the first time we chose the Biedermeier painter – I grew up with a lot of Spitzweg everywhere and am quite familiar with many of his painting, just by osmosis, so to speak.  The Poor Poet was always a favorite, probably because he is such a funny character, almost a caricature, and then again, he isn’t.  Chances are, the artist’s lot as portrayed was and is a lot more common than one might imagine.  In a world where efficiency and materialism rule, the fine arts don’t exactly have their hay-day, and living off one’s creative energy only works for a select few.

So have compassion and do not laugh at him, even if he has his quill in his mouth and his glasses on upside down.  His oven is cold, his roof is leaky, and his room is a squash and a squeeze.  Small wonder the muses do not visit him often these days, and if they do, nobody values their input, or the poet’s output, as they should.  Poor Poet, indeed!

Carl Spitzweg: Der Arme Poet, 1839

Cultured Wednesday: Spitzweg’s Begegnung im Walde

A pleasant meeting in the forest is at the center of our choice of painting for today.

Today, Carl Spitzweg is the object of interest, painter of the period commonly referred to as Biedermeier.  The featured image might very well be a self portrait of the painter, but for a closer look, we chose his “Meeting in the Forest”.

Begegnung im Walde (A Woodland Meeting), c. 1860

Biedermeier” is used primarily to refer to an artistic era in Central Europe between 1815 and 1848.  It appealed by and large to the growing middle class of the time.   The painter Carl Spitzweg, who was born in a small village near Munich, Germany on 5 February 1808 and died 23 September 1885 in Munich, traveled extensively at some point in his live, but resided in southern Germany for the most part, and so many of his paintings show Alpine landscapes and scenes.  The one we chose is a forest scene as well, although the forest in question could be the Black Forest as well as the Harz Mountains or any other.

The two people meeting in the woods are described as a hunter and a dairy maid, who is apparently in the woods to fetch water.  It is quite obvious that the two know each other well and like each other:  Just look at the smile on the huntsman’s face!  He is obviously enjoying himself, and from the way the lady is standing, I am assuming she is as well.

What we find appealing about Spitzweg is how he pays attention to detail even when the people in his paintings are small because towering mountains or high trees take the center stage.  Just look at the two people meeting in Begegnung im Walde, how the painter paid attention to her hairdo and to the folds of their clothing, and how the hunter’s face shows unmistakable mirth.  To add to the light and gay atmosphere, the vegetation around the two people is dotted with light, giving the whole scene a beautiful liveliness which is further stressed by the merrily running water.  And if you look closely, you can spot a little bird high in the trees behind them. 


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