From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Hans Baldung known as Hans Baldung Grien/Grün (c. 1480 - 1545). German Renaissance artist as painter and printmaker in woodcut. He was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer. He was also influenced by Cranach, Grünewald and Altdorfer.
A good example of the fantastic and macabre qualities of his work include his treatments of the "the ages", woman and death motifs and his representation of witches as in Witch and Dragon (1515) and Bewitched Groom (Sleeping Groom and a Sorceress) (1544).
Themes and style
Baldung was extremely interested in witches and made many images of them in different media, including several very beautiful drawings finished with bodycolour, which are more erotic than his treatments in other techniques. Typical for his subject matter are also the Danse Macabre, the Three Graces and Death and the Maiden.
- "Without absolute correctness as a draughtsman, his conception of human form is often very unpleasant, whilst a questionable taste is shown in ornament equally profuse and baroque. Nothing is more remarkable in his pictures than the pug-like shape of the faces, unless we except the coarseness of the extremities. No trace is apparent of any feeling for atmosphere or light and shade. Though Grün has been commonly called the Correggio of the north, his compositions are a curious medley of glaring and heterogeneous colours, in which pure black is contrasted with pale yellow, dirty grey, impure red and glowing green. Flesh is a mere glaze under which the features are indicated by lines."
The earliest pictures assigned to him by some are altar-pieces with the monogram H. B. interlaced, and the date of 1496, in the monastery chapel of Lichtenthal near Baden-Baden. Another early work is a portrait of the emperor Maximilian, drawn in 1501 on a leaf of a sketch-book now in the print-room at Karlsruhe. "The Martyrdom of St Sebastian and the Epiphany" (now Berlin, 1507), were painted for the market-church of Halle in Saxony.
Baldung's prints, though Düreresque, are very individual in style, and often in subject. They show little direct Italian influence. His paintings are less important than his prints. He worked mainly in woodcut, although he made six engravings, one very fine. He joined in the fashion for chiaroscuro woodcuts, adding a tone block to a woodcut of 1510. Most of his hundreds of woodcuts were commissioned for books, as was usual at the time; his "single-leaf" woodcuts (ie prints not for book illustration) are fewer than 100, though no two catalogues agree as to the exact number.
He was extremely interested in witches and made many images of them in different media, including several very beautiful drawings finished with bodycolour, which are more erotic than his treatments in other techniques.
Unconventional as a draughtsman, his treatment of human form is often exaggerated and eccentric (hence his linkage, in the art historical literature, with European Mannerism), whilst his ornamental style - profuse, eclectic, and akin to the self-consciously "German" strain of contemporary limewood sculptors - is equally distinctive. Though Baldung has been commonly called the Correggio of the north, his compositions are a curious medley of glaring and heterogeneous colours, in which pure black is contrasted with pale yellow, dirty grey, impure red and glowing green. Flesh is a mere glaze under which the features are indicated by lines. (1911)
His works are notable for their individualistic departure from the Renaissance composure of his model, Dürer, for the wild and fantastic strength that some of them display, and for their remarkable themes. In the field of painting, his Eve, the Serpent and Death (National Gallery of Canada) shows his strengths well. There is special force in the "Death and the Maiden" panel of 1517 (Basel), in the "Weather Witches" (Frankfurt), in the monumental panels of "Adam" and "Eve" (Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), and in his many powerful portraits. Baldung's most sustained effort is the altarpiece of Freiburg, where the Coronation of the Virgin, and the Twelve Apostles, the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and Flight into Egypt, and the Crucifixion, with portraits of donors, are executed with some of that fanciful power that Martin Schongauer bequeathed to the Swabian school.
As a portrait painter he is well known. He drew Charles V, as well as Maximilian; and his bust of Margrave Philip in the Munich Gallery tells us that he was connected with the reigning family of Baden as early as 1514. At a later period he had sittings with Margrave Christopher of Baden, Ottilia his wife, and all their children, and the picture containing these portraits is still in the gallery at Karlsruhe. Like Dürer and Cranach, Baldung supported the Protestant Reformation. He was present at the diet of Augsburg in 1518, and one of his woodcuts represents Luther in quasi-saintly guise, under the protection of (or being inspired by) the Holy Spirit, which hovers over him in the shape of a dove.
He was born Hans Baldung at Schwäbisch Gmünd in Swabia, Germany, the son of a lawyer, who moved to Strassburg in 1492. He was the only male member of his family not to attend university; this background was unusual for an artist at the time. His uncle became a doctor to the Emperor. He spent the greater part of his life at Strassburg and Freiburg im Breisgau. He joined Dürer's Nuremberg workshop in 1503, probably after some initial training in Strassburg, and stayed until 1507. He seems to have been left in charge of the workshop during Dürer's second trip to Italy. It is presumed that he acquired his nickname of "Grien" (meaning "green") in Nuremberg; the workshop seems to have had three Hanses in it at one point. He later included it in his monogram; it has also been suggested that it came from "grienhals", a German word for witch. In his later trip to the Netherlands in 1521 Dürer's diary shows that he took with him and sold prints by Baldung. On Dürer's death Baldung was sent a lock of his hair, which suggests a close friendship.
In 1509 Baldung purchased a citizenship of the city of Strassburg (then a German city, now in France), and lived there there till 1513. He then moved to Freiburg im Breisgau after being contacted to paint a large altarpiece for Freiburg Cathedral, which he finished in 1516 (still in situ). He returned to Strassburg in 1517, and died as a member of the town council in 1545. He had married Margarethe Herlin, from a prominent family in the city, and owned a number of properties. Baldung died before the year of 1700.
List of works
- Death and the Maiden series
- "the ages", woman and death
- Hans Baldung Grien's witches
- Allegory (Hans Baldung)