Franz Pforr and the Nazarenes

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The Nazarenes

In 1809, the young German painters Franz Pforr (1788-1812) and Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869) founded the Brotherhood of St Luke in Vienna.

They settled in Rome a year later, where they lived and worked with new recruits in the convent of Sant'Isidoro del Pincio. Because of their flowing hair and monk-like appearance, they were called the Nazarenes.

Within the confines of the Brotherhood, their daily life was based on fraternity and ascetic poverty. As artists, the members set out to revive the art of painting by following an ideal of simplicity and sincerity, in conflict with the academic principles of their time. Their reworking of ancient sacred an was based on a sobriety of colour and line that had many sources of inspiration, including Fra Angelico, the early works of Raphael, and older northern masters from van Eyck to Durer.

For the Nazarenes, art was a divine mission, elevated to the level of true faith. The celestial origin of sacred art was celebrated by Philipp Veit (1793-1877) in his frescos in the Villa Massimo of Rome (1819), where he represented the three great Italian poets - Dante, Ariosto, and Tasso -alongside the saints and fathers of the church.

Between 1826 and 1839, Peter von Cornelius (1783-1867) gave artists sacred status in the loggias of the Munich Pinakothek (1826-30) and the Stadel Institute of Frankfurt with his Triumph of Religion in the Arts(1829).

In portraits, there was a mood of contemplation. In the intimate portrayal of friends, pictures reveal subtle nuances of character, in a style far removed from the canons of official portraiture. The original spirit, derived from the masters of the 15th century that had brought the Nazarenes together, lasted only for a short time.

The fresco cycles that decorated the home of the German consul Bartholdy (1816-17) and the Villa Massimo already showed affinities with the style of the Renaissance of the early 16th century.

Pforr died before the age of 25 and Cornelius was summoned, together with Heinrich von Olivier (1785-1841) and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), to Munich by Ludwig.

The king encouraged a popular, educational style of painting and commissioned them to adorn the city's public buildings with patriotic, humanistic frescos. The art of the Nazarenes assumed an official role with Cornelius' paintings - which formed part of the Glyptothek (1819-30), the museum of ancient art designed in a Greek style by Leo von Klenze. Thanks, too, to Carolsfeld's cycle of the Nibelungen (1827) for the Konigsbau (the royal residence in Munich open to visitors), an artistic interpretation of national mythology assumed an educational function.

The artistic achievement of the Nazarenes is difficult to evaluate; their finished paintings appear less impressive with the perspective of history than they did to their contemporaries. Awkward composition, weak colouring and derivative themes detract from the challenge of their work in its time. However, the programme of the Nazarenes—the adoption of honest expression in art and the inspiration of artists before Raphael—was to exert considerable influence in Germany, and in England upon the Pre-Raphaelite movement. In their abandonment of the academy and their rejection of much of the artistic legacy of western art, the Nazarenes can be seen as pioneers of an avant-garde tendency in art which would dominate the late nineteenth century.


Franz Pforr

Born Frankfurt am Main, 5 April 1788 - Died Albano, Albano Laziale near Rome, 16 June 1812.

Franz Pforr was a German painter and draughtsman. His work evokes a fairy-tale type of medievalism, with bright colours and picturesque details. It is best represented in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut of his native Frankfort. He received his earliest training from his father, the painter Johann Georg Pforr (1745–98), and his uncle, the art professor and first inspector of the painting gallery in Kassel, Johann Heinrich Tischbein the younger (1742–1808).

In 1805 he became a student at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, which was dominated by the severe Neo-classicism of its director, Heinrich Füger; he was taught by Hubert Maurer (1738–1818), Franz Cauzig (1762–1828) and Johann Martin Fischer.

During the war with France in 1805, Pforr volunteered as a guard in the Vienna militia. He suffered a nervous breakdown, brought on by the conflict between his passionate longing for a contemplative life and a desire to see military action. He probably turned to religion to help sustain his mental equilibrium.

In 1806 he resumed his academic studies and, believing himself destined to become a battle painter, made numerous drawings of historical battles, for example his still schoolish and baroquely composed Wallenstein in the Battle of Lützen (1806; Frankfurt am Main, Städel. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.).

However, it was not until 1807, with Drawing with Twelve Travel Sketches (Frankfurt am Main, Stadt- & Ubib.), that he first began to overcome his beginner’s style and to develop his own. This resulted in reduced detail, simplified continuous contours, a structuring by means of planar rather than illusionistic criteria, a new clarity of vision and a chastened balance between nature and artistic conception.

"The Entry of Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg into Basle, 1273" is the first large medieval subject painted in a deliberately historicist manner. Its flattened perspectives, awkward figures and bright colours are all calculated to achieve an effect of child-like innocence and naiveté. The work reflects the artist's nostalgia for a proud period of Germanic unity under the Holy Roman Empire and his admiration for the first monarch of the Habsburg dynasty to be elected Emperor.

Pforr's short life was overshadowed by illness and depression and this is evident in "St George and the Dragon". The combatants are self-sufficient, in a way that is quite out of keeping with a struggle; only the large and penetrating eye of the horse takes up contact with the viewer. This is a fight without effort, as if the knight were dreaming his own experience in a lethargy remote from time.

In the painting "Shulamit and Maria" Pforr separates the Italian and the German worlds, the Old and the New Testament. Pforr also wrote a novel on this theme.

Pforr didn't have the chance to live long enough to see his art acknowledged. He died of tuberculosis at age 24.

Paintings by Franz Pforr

  • The Entry of Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg into Basle, 1273 - 1809-10
  • Shulamit and Maria - 1810-11
  • St George and the Dragon - c. 1811
  • Self-Portait - Date Unknown
  • Rudolf of Habsburg and the Priest - Date Unknown


    Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld

    Born Leipzig, 26 March 1794 - Died Dresden, 24 May 1872.

    Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld was a painter and draughtsman, brother of Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld. He was taught engraving by his father and then trained under Heinrich Füger at the Akademie in Vienna (1811–15). Though not particularly excited by the curriculum, he was inspired by his friendship with Ferdinand Olivier and Joseph Anton Koch and the circle around A. W. Schlegel to an interest in both landscape sketching (examples of pen-and-ink drawings from this period in the Albertina, Vienna) and in old German and Netherlandish art, as reflected in the style of the detailed pen drawing of the Prodigal Son (1816; Dresden, Kupferstichkab.).

    From 1815 to 1818 he lived in the house of Ferdinand Olivier, whose step-daughter, Marie Heller, he later married. A painting of 1817, St Roch Distributing Alms (Leipzig, Mus. Bild. Kst.), is an excellent record of this period, as it contains portraits of Ferdinand Olivier and Marie Heller, and a landscape background similar to that sketched by Schnorr von Carolsfeld with Ferdinand and Friedrich Olivier around Salzburg.

    Paintings by Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld

  • The Family of St John the Baptist Visiting Christ - 1817
  • The Wedding Feast at Cana - 1819
  • Portrait of a Model - 1820
  • Madonna and Child - 1820
  • Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Ruth in Boazs Field - 1828
  • Charles the Great Entering Pavia - 1840
  • Casa Massimo - Date Unknown
  • Portrait of Frau Bianka with Lute - Date Unknown
  • Struggle - Date Unknown
  • The-Annunciation - Date Unknown

  • Peter Von Cornelius

    Born Sept. 23rd 1783, Düsseldorf, Palatinate - Died March 6th, 1867, Berlin.

    Peter Von Cornelius is a painter notable for his part in the German revival of fresco painting in the 19th century. His early works are unremarkable examples of Neoclassicism. But his style gradually changed under the influence of German Gothic art, German Romantic writers, and Durer's marginal drawings for the prayer book of Emperor Maximilian.

    In 1811 Cornelius went to Rome, where he joined a group of young German painters, the Nazarenes, or Lucas Brotherhood (Lukasbund), led by Franz Pforr and J.F. Overbeck. In 1819 Cornelius was invited to Munich by the Bavarian crown prince, later King Ludwig I, to decorate the new museum of classical sculpture (Glyptothek). In 1824 he became director of the Munich Academy. His “Last Judgment” (1829–40), filling the whole east wall of the Ludwigskirche in Munich, is notable for its clarity and didactic purpose. In 1841 Frederick William IV called Cornelius to Berlin, where his main occupation was the planning of a vast cycle of frescoes (never executed) for the walls of a cemetery, modelled on the Campo Santo in Pisa.

    At heart Cornelius was always an academic artist, even if his outlook was shaped by Romantic philosophy. But he remainsa notable artist by virtue of his penetrating intellect, which gave substance to his large dogmatic pictures and order to their composition.

    Paintings by Peter Von Cornelius

  • The Vision of Rabenstein - 1811
  • The Three Maries at the Tomb of Jesus - 1815
  • Joseph Interpreting Pharaohs Dream - 1816-17
  • The Recognition of Joseph by his Brothers - 1816-17
  • The Last Judgement - 1836-39
  • The Four Horses of the Apocalypse - 1845
  • The Holy Family - Date Unknown
  • The Wise and Foolish Virgins - Date Unknown
  • Ulysses and the Sirens - Date Unknown


    Leo Von Klenze

    Born 1784 Schladen, Germany - Died 1864 Munich, Germany painter

    Leo Von Klenze was an architect, painter, and writer, Leo von Klenze is most noted for his work as court architect to Ludwig I, king of Bavaria.

    He designed streets, squares, and numerous monumental buildings that set the scale and tone of Munich, the Bavarian capital. His other European commissions ranged from Athens, where he was the first to take steps to preserve the Acropolis, to Saint Petersburg, Russia.

    In addition to building, Von Klenze studied public building finance, designed and arranged museum galleries of ancient art, and was an accomplished painter. His paintings exhibit a richness of detail and special attention to light and compositional space. He successfully combined his talent for sharp observation with an equal and complementary ability to improve upon nature.

    On his visits to Italy, he both drew and painted landscapes and examined the remains of Greek temples as sources for his archaeological Greek style.

    Paintings by Leo Von Klenze

  • Idealized view of the Acropolis and the Areopagus in Athens - 1846
  • The Camposanto in Pisa - 1858
  • Landscape with the Castle of Massa di Carrara - Date Unknown
  • Napoleon in Portoferraio - Date Unknown


    Johann Heinrich Ferdinand Von Olivier

    Born Dessau, 1 April 1785 - Died Munich 11 Feb 1841.

    Johann Heinrich Ferdinand Von Olivier was a painter, draughtsman and lithographer, brother of Heinrich Olivier. The brothers’ mother was a court opera singer in Dessau, and Ferdinand’s later interest in the German medieval and Nazarene styles owed much to the intellectual climate at the Anhalt-Dessau court, where Leopold III Frederick Francis, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, had been the first German prince to introduce the Gothic Revival style.

    Olivier took up drawing in 1801–2 under the tuition of Carl Wilhelm Kolbe and the engraver Johann Christian Haldenwang (1777–1831).

    In 1802–3 he accompanied his father to Berlin, where he studied woodcut techniques under Johann Friedrich Gottlieb Unger (1755–1804) and may have attended August Wilhelm Schlegel’s lectures on belles-lettres and art. It was here, at the latest, that he discovered Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders (Berlin, 1797) by Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck, and the latter’s Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen (Berlin, 1798), two books of vital significance for the painting of the Romantic era.

    Having decided to make art their career, Ferdinand and his brother Heinrich spent two years (1804–6) in Dresden, where they copied the works of Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain in the art gallery during the summer months. Ferdinand also took lessons from Jacob Wilhelm Mechau (1745–1808) and Carl Ludwig Kaaz, both painters of idealized landscapes, and he was probably introduced to the work of Philipp Otto Runge and Caspar David Friedrich by Friedrich August von Klinkowström (1778–1835), a friend of Runge.

    In June 1807 Ferdinand’s excellent knowledge of French led to his appointment as embassy secretary in Paris, where Heinrich soon joined him. However, after just a few weeks he gave up his diplomatic career in order to devote himself to a study of the Musée Napoléon, which at that time housed art treasures pillaged from all parts of Europe. Ferdinand and Heinrich jointly produced three paintings for Leopold III Frederick Francis of Anhalt-Dessau: a portrait of Napoleon on Horseback (c.1809; Wörlitz, Schloss), and a Last Supper and Baptism (1809–10; Wörlitz, Evangel. Ch.) for the Gothic Revival church in Wörlitz. Although these last two were supposed to be copies after the ‘old German school’, the Olivier brothers in fact used 15th- and 16th-century Dutch and Flemish models to create original compositions.

    At the end of 1809 they returned to Dessau. In 1810, on a tour of the Harz with his younger brother Friedrich Olivier, Ferdinand produced a number of markedly naturalistic sketches that testify to the break with his schooling in Dresden, for example Cliffs on the Brocken (1810; Dessau, Anhalt. Gemäldegal.).

    In 1811 he travelled with Friedrich via Dresden to Vienna where the Lukasbrüder had been formed shortly before. Although the group had since moved to Rome, the Olivier brothers soon became acquainted with its ideals through Philipp Veit, Friedrich von Schlegel’s stepson, whose home they frequented, and Joseph Sutter (1781–1866).

    In 1817, with Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, they were accepted—from afar—into the Lukasbrüder.

    Paintings by Johann Heinrich Ferdinand Von Olivier

  • View of Salzburg - 1818
  • Meadow - 1823
  • Elijah in the Wilderness - 1831
  • Babylonian Landscape - Date Unknown
  • Jesus on a Stroll - Date Unknown
  • Landscape I - Date Unknown
  • Landscape II - Date Unknown
  • The Family of Johannesknaben - Date Unknown


    Philipp Veit

    Born Berlin, 13 Feb 1793 - Died Mainz, 18 Dec 1877.

    Philipp Veit was a German painter. He was the stepson, from 1804, of Friedrich von Schlegel, he studied (1808–11) at the Akademie in Dresden under Friedrich Matthäi (1777–1845) and Caspar David Friedrich.

    He showed talent in drawing but, on moving to Vienna in 1811, had difficulties with painting in oil, and turned to watercolour. Through Schlegel, Veit came to know many of the leading Romantics in Vienna, such as the poet and novelist Joseph von Eichendorff.

    In 1813–14 Veit took part in the campaign against Napoleon and returned briefly to Berlin.

    In 1815 he completed a votive picture, the Virgin with Christ and St John, for the church of St James in Heiligenstadt, Vienna, inspired by the work of Pietro Perugino and Raphael.

    In 1815 Veit left for Italy where he stayed until 1830. In Rome he joined the circle around Friedrich Overbeck and Peter Cornelius, becoming a leading Nazarene. With these artists he took part in providing fresco decorations (1816–17) for the Casa Bartholdy (now the Bibliotheca Hertziana): Veit painted the scene of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife and a decorative lunette allegory, the Seven Years of Plenty (both now Berlin, Staatl. Mussen, N.G.).

    In 1818 Veit was commissioned to paint the fresco of the Triumph of Religion in the Museo Chiaramonti in the Vatican, one of a series of murals recording the services of Pope Pius VII to science and art. Veit also took part in the decoration of the Casino Massimo in Rome (1818–24), painting the ceiling of the Dante Room with the Heavens of the Blessed and the Empyrean. In these frescoes and in his Maria Immaculata in Trinità dei Monti (1829–30) Veit proved himself the finest colourist of the Nazarene artists. While in Rome, Veit also painted some excellent portraits, notably a Self-portrait (c. 1816; Mainz, Landesmus.). He also produced a fine series of pencil drawings of his fellow German artists in Rome (e.g. Mainz, Landesmus.).

    Paintings by Philipp Veit

  • Joseph and Potiphar's Wife - 1817
  • Ecce Homo - 1819
  • The Rest on the Flight - 1840
  • St. Anne Teaching the Virgin to Read - 1869
  • Germania I - Date Unknown
  • Germania II - Date Unknown
  • Italia - Date Unknown
  • Religion Chiaramonti Fresco - Date Unknown

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