Grünewald Matthias ca. 1475/80–1528 German Painter

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Grünewald Matthias
ca. 1475/80–1528
German painter

German painter Matthias Grünewald is best known for his highly emotional religious paintings. His style reflects the continuing influence of medieval* ideas and images on German art in the early 1500s.

Grünewald was probably born in Würzburg, Germany. Scholars know almost nothing about his training and early career. One of his earliest surviving works is a painting, the Mocking of Christ, which dates from around 1505. Records show that Grünewald was working as an engineer in 1510 and as a painter, stonecutter, and architect in 1511. The following year he created a series of paintings with gruesome images of the dead Christ for a monastery in the region of Alsace. The expressive style of the paintings recalls religious images of the German Gothic* period.

From about 1516 to 1526, Grünewald worked for the archbishop of Mainz, Albrecht von Brandenburg. Scholars suggest that Albrecht dismissed Grünewald in 1526, either because the artist had embraced the Protestant ideas of Martin Luther or because he took part in the Peasants' War, a revolt that occurred in 1525. Grünewald moved to Frankfurt and later to the city of Halle, where he worked as an engineer until his death.

The German humanist* Philipp Melanchthon considered Grünewald to be nearly as great an artist as Albrecht DÜrer. Through his creativity, powerful symbolism, and skill with color and light, he conveyed the powerful emotions and spirituality of his religious subjects. Unlike Dürer, he drew little inspiration from the ancient world or the Italian Renaissance. Instead, he continued to work with the images, ideas, and styles of the Middle Ages.

(See alsoArt in Germany; Protestant Reformation. )

* medieval

referring to the Middle Ages, a period that began around a.d. 400 and ended around 1400 in Italy and 1500 in the rest of Europe

* Gothic

artistic style marked by bright colors, elongated proportions, and intricate detail

* humanist

Renaissance expert in the humanities (the languages, literature, history, and speech and writing techniques of ancient Greece and Rome)

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Grünewald Matthias ca. 1475/80–1528 German Painter

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