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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Matthias Grunewald

Country: Germany
Century: 1500 - The 16th Century
Artist / Artwork Description:

Matthias Grünewald(around 1470-1528)
„Isenheimer Altar“

Synthetic Chronology:

Mathias Grünewald, also known as Matthäus von Aschaffenburg and Matthis Gothart Nithard was a German painter and one of the last important Gothic artists. There is not much known abt. him and art -historical sciences are full of contradictions concerning his work and life. He was a painter of religious works and there are just 10 paintings and 35 drawings left.

The Context:

Grünewald lived in a period of time, which was affected by artists who worked at courts being dependent on their employers. Therefore it was important for him to keep in touch to political as well as religious leaders, who were involved in humanism and intentions of reforms. The time was characterized by social and religious agitation in the population.
The Altar was commissioned by the abbot Guersi who was member of the Antoniter fraternity.


In the times of M.Grünewald the transition of Gothic to Renaissance took place.The mideaval idea was no to make any difference between live on earth and supernatural powers. As well as A. Dürer the artist tried to find a new way of presenting a different and new religious idea: a naturalistic depiction in connection with an idealistic nature.

National Comparative:

As we don t know where Grünewald studied we could say there is a strong influence of Hans Holbein d.Ä. concerning his colouation of paintings. Also sure is the connection of the artist with Albrecht Dürer, whom he met in 1520. Some paintings of Grünewald were accredited to Albrecht Dürer and now seen as the antithesis of his style. The mystical language of his works is more expressive than Dürer`s and even more colourful. Similar are their aims

Artistic Analysis:

There are three different states of the Isenheim Altar:
a)a closed state showing the crucifiction of the Holy Sebastian and Holy Antonius
b)the first opened state shows the proclamation, the incarnation and the resurrection
c)the 2nd opened state shows carved figures in the center of the Altar. The flanks show the seduction of Holy Antonius and the other one a meeting of Holy Antonius and Paulus.
The pictures are characterized by a rich speech of symbols and an expressive way of depiction. Grünewald is one of the most important painters in the German Art History known for his enormous expression of signs and symbols and the shining colours with its contrasts.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

While the German artists tried to get over the Gothic ideas the Italian artists like Michelangelo and Raffael already found their humanistic way of a modern reincarnation. During these centuries it always took some time for new artistic ideas to come over the Alps to Germany. The depictions of Antonius with evillike expressions could conquer the paintings of masters like H. Bosch.


Besides A. Dürer nobody else created such powerful, colourful and expressive pieces of art in these times to show the ney ideas of the Renaissance in Germany. The human being experiences paradise as a mental reformation. Still Grünewald`s Isenheimer Altar seems to be modernistic and captivating not just for adults but also for pupils.


• Rainhard Riepertinger, Evamaria Brockhoff, Katharina Heinemann, Jutta Schumann (Hgg.): Das Rätsel Grünewald, Kat. zur Bayer. Landesausstellung 2002/2003, Augsburg 2002 (= Veröff. z. Bayer. Geschichte und Kultur 45/02).
• Wilhelm Fraenger; Matthias Grünewald , Verlag der Kunst Dresden, 1988
• Horst Ziermann, Erika Beissel; Matthias Grünewald, Prestel Verlag München, 2001, ISBN 3-7913-2432-2
• Berta Reichenauer; Grünewald, Kulturverlag Thaur, 1992, ISBN 3-85395-159-7
• Erik Neutsch; Nach dem großen Aufstand, Grünewaldbiographie, Faber und Faber Leipzig, 2004, ISBN 3-936618-14-3
• Ines Thorn „Der Maler Gottes“ Romanbiographie Knaur 2004 ISBN 3-426-62673-X
• Karl Müssel: Das Rätsel Grünewald und Oberfranken – Zum Jubiläum des 500-jährigen „Lindenhardter Altars“ (1503 – 2003) in Archiv für Geschichte von Oberfranken, 83. Band; Bayreuth 2003; Herausgeber: Historischer Verein von Oberfranken,
• Reiner Marquard, Mathias Grünewald und der Isenheimer Altar, Calwer Verlag Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-7668-3463-0
• Horst Ossenberg, Meister Mathis der Maler – Spurensuche, Verlag Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt 2005, ISBN 3-8334-3714-6
• Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (Hrsg.): Grünewald und seine Zeit, Deutscher Kunstverlag München/Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-422-06762-0
• Matthias Grünewald. Zeichnungen und Gemälde (Ausstellungskatalog Kupferstichkabinett Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), hrsg. von Michael Roth und Antje-Fee Köllermann, Hatje Cantz Verlag Ostfildern 2008, ISBN 978-3-7757-2138-7

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 68_140px-Mathis_Gothart_Grünewald_029.jpg

Description of the material:

2.377 × 1.980 Pixel image/jpeg 603 KB

Contextualisation Of the source:

original source of this image:

Interpretation of the source:

Isenheimer Altar in the musee d´Unterlinden, Colmar opended to the visitors

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

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