Friday, October 10, 2014


When the early Celtic tribes moved their way into France and Germany they also left behind some of the earliest art forms there as well.  Some of the earliest forms of art found here are primitive human sculptures and golden hats of the Bronze Age, and much of this is in the Celtic tradition.  After Christianity spread into the area following the reign of Charlemagne, the most prominent art form was illuminated manuscripts. Crucifix sculptures were also popular in larger cathedrals, and some were life size. Altarpieces, a type of relief that was painted or carved that stood behind the altar as a backdrop, were another highly elaborate art form from the Medieval period.

The biggest name from the Renaissance period is Albrecht Dürer.  He was well known for his engravings and prints that went into printed books – something relatively new at this time. He also was known as a painter. Sculpture remains an important during this time; however, it branched out into ornamental flourishes in Gothic building design.

As Germany moved its way through Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles, they also included artistic movements and other styles from across Europe into their work as well.  Caspar David Friedrich is one of the leading artists in Germany during the Romantic period, or at least one of the most well known.  Much of the art at this time was in painting landscapes and portraits. Shortly after this, naturalism and realism took hold of German artists, and paintings started to come alive. (Not literally.) Artists brought back elements of Greek art and Art Nouveau. 

by Caspar David Friedrich

Fundamentalism, expressionism, grotesque, Dadaism, and a number of other art movements prevailed in the 20th century, some more avant garde than others. The Nazi regime generally forbade any modern art style, electing to only approve art done in the classical styles and the subject matter had to be nationalistic. Conceptional art became very popular after WWII; some of the big names include Bernd and Hilla Becher, Hans-Peter Feldmann, and Hans Haacke. Joseph Beuys is also a well-known artist and sculptor, often giving performances and lectures with his work. Today, there are numerous art exhibitions at museums across Germany showcasing the best of their own artists.

by Joseph Beuys
German literature is primarily written in German, and generally includes literature from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Obviously, I’m going to focus on the literature coming out of Germany itself in this post.  Early literature for the most part started around the Reformation, although there were some pieces around before that, mostly epic poetry. Romantic poetry, especially that of the courts and royalty, were particularly popular. The heroic poems, stemming from the oral traditions, were also beginning to be written down.

The Baroque period brought forth the establishment of language rules and rules on poetry and style, thanks to the efforts of Martin Opitz.  This literary period also gave us the first German tragedies as well as continuations in religious poetry.

The period of Enlightenment was one of the key literary movements during the 18th Century; writers such as Immanuel Kant, Christian Wolff, and Johann Gottfried Herder were influential writers of this style.  A movement called Sturm und Drang, characterized by periods of strong emotions as a way of breaking out of the strict nationalism, was shown in the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (most notable for his work Faust) and Friedrich Schiller, who later became known for their involvement and initiation of the Weimar Classicism movement.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
German Romanticism tended to value honor and wit as well as beauty.  Karl Friedrich Schlegal and his brother August Wilhelm Schlegal as well as Heinrich von Kleist and E.T.A. Hoffmann were prolific writers of this period.  Young Germany, a group of writers associated with the Vormärtz writers included many young writers and poets, Heinrich Heine being one of the most famous.

Heinrich Heine
During the Nazi regime, a lot of writers fled to safer countries, and the ones who stayed were under strict censorship and forced to write Nazi propaganda materials. After the war was over, postwar and postmodern literature tended to dominate the most published genres. German writers also made their mark in science fiction, fantasy, futuristic fiction, thriller, and pop fiction. Hermann Hesse is one of the most well-known authors who was born in Germany and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. I have read and own two of his most famous books: Steppenwolf and Siddhartha

Up next: music and dance

No comments:

Post a Comment