German art and architecture: The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Outstanding German sculpture was created in the late 15th cent. with the powerfully realistic works, particularly in wooden altarpieces, of Peter Vischer the elder, Veit Stoss, Adam Kraft, and Tilman Riemenschneider. Active both as a sculptor and as a painter, Hans Multscher established the Swabian school. In the late 15th and early 16th cent., manuscript illumination and fresco painting declined as stained glass technique and panel painting became highly developed.

The refined paintings of Stephan Lochner are among those that reflect Flemish influence, particularly of the van Eycks and of Rogier van der Weyden. Martin Schongauer, painting at the same time, developed a more individual style, characterized by delicate and curving lines. Hans Holbein the elder, and Michael Pacher were among the other major 15th-century figures. The artistic genius of the century was Albrecht Dürer. His paintings, woodcuts, and engravings were produced at an unprecedented level of perfection, influencing all European art of the time. He visited Venice and was chiefly responsible for bringing elements of the Italian Renaissance style to Germany.

Painting in the 16th cent. was at its height in Germany and led all other arts. Hans Holbein the younger, Mathias Grünewald (creator of the last major Gothic altarpiece), Albrecht Altdorfer (who brought pure landscape painting into vogue), Lucas Cranach the elder, and Hans Baldung were the great masters of the age. Gothic architecture prevailed so long in Germany that when the Church of St. Michael's in Munich was built (c.1590), the Renaissance and mannerist periods had already ended, and early baroque churches, heavily influenced by Italian design, were being constructed.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art to 1599