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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

German Romanticism

A literary, artistic, and philosophical movement, German Romanticism developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as part of a wider Romantic reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, industrialization, and the conventionalized artifice of aristocratic society. German Romantic artists shared in the quest for personal validation through authentic feeling found in subjects encouraging intense emotional responses, such as the sublime power of natural forces, grand historical events, or encounters with the otherworldly. There was an added search for subjects evoking an authentic, unified German national identity, which had not existed before, leading to the embrace of medieval subjects and styles, an interest in folklore, and a desire to reach back to the craftsmanship of Albrecht Dürer and the purity of Raphael as vehicles of expression.

Dürer’s work is unquestionably the inspiration for Schulz’s depiction of Faust’s encounter with the devil, suggesting the Renaissance master himself both in his characterization of Faust and in the extraordinary technical control used to render the multifarious contents of the alchemist’s laboratory. Medievalized subjects displayed here include Rethel’s exquisite depiction of women mourning their deceased champion, the Minnesänger or love poet known as Frauenlob (Praiser of Women), as well as Scheuren’s evocation of an isolated monk ensconced in a vast yet hospitable nature. Von Schwind’s Father Christmas and Gehrt’s Three Gnomes exemplify the Romantic fascination with folkloric and fairy tale subjects, and exhibit the strain of humor that also runs through German Romanticism, a trait evident as well in Fellner’s depiction of a ghostly apparition of a folk hero.

Artists, Titles, and Accession Numbers

Antonietta Brandeis, The Knight's Farewell, 2007.15.22 >

Ferdinand Fellner, The Ghost of the Bavarian Hiesel Appears to a Poacher, 2007.15.33 >

Carl Gehrts, Three Gnomes, 2007.15.38 >

Alfred Rethel, Funeral Procession of the Minnesänger Heinrich Meissen, 2006.11.48 >

Caspar Johann Nepomuk Scheuren, Hermit Reading in Mountain Valley, 2007.15.69 >

Karl Friedrich Schulz, Faust in His Study, 2007.15.70 >

Moritz von Schwind, Mister Winter or Father Christmas (Herr Winter), 2006.11.54 >

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