Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

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Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (26 March 1794 – 24 May 1872) was a German painter, associated with the Nazarene movement.


Early life[edit]

The Wedding at Cana (1820)

Schnorr was born in Leipzig, the son of Veit Hanns Schnorr von Carolsfeld [1] (1764–1841), a draughtsman, engraver and painter, from whom he received his initial artistic education.[2] his earliest known works being copies of the Neoclassical drawings of John Flaxman.[3]In 1811 he entered the Vienna Academy, from which Johann Friedrich Overbeck and others who rebelled against the old conventional style had been expelled about a year before.[2] There he studied under Friedrich Heinrich Füger, and became friends with Joseph Anton Koch and Heinrich Olivier, both of who would have an important influence on his style.[1]


Schnorr followed Overbeck and the other the founders of the Nazarene movement to Rome in 1815. This school of religious and romantic art tended to reject modern styles, attempting to revert to and revive the principles and practice of earlier periods.[2]At the beginning of his time in Rome, Schnorr was particularly influenced by his close study of fifteenth century Italian painting, especially the works of Fra Angelico. Soon however, he abandoned this refined simplicity, and began to look towards more elaborate High Renaissance models.[4] From its outset the Nazarene movement made an effort to recover fresco painting and monumental art, and Schnorr found opportunity of demonstrating his powers when commissioned to decorate the entrance hall of the Villa Massimo near the Lateran with frescoes illustrating the works of Ariosto. [2] Other cycles in the house were begun by Peter von Cornelius and Johann Friedrich Overbeck.[4]

Return to Germany[edit]

Portrait of Klara Bianka von Quandt (1820), a painting considered to be based on Raphael's Joanna of Aragon

The second period of Schnorr's artistic output began in 1825, when he left Rome, settled in Munich, entered the service of Ludwig I of Bavaria, and transplanted to Germany the art of wall-painting which he had learned in Italy. He showed himself qualified as a sort of poet-painter to the Bavarian court; he organized a staff of trained executants, and covered five halls in the new palace – the "Residenz" – with frescoes illustrating the Nibelungenlied. He also painted a series of scenes from the lives of Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and Rudolph of Habsburg.[2] Schnorr had initially wanted to create a complex symbolic programme in which these German historical subjects were combined with scenes from the Old Testament. This however was rejected by Ludwig, leaving Schnorr to complain that he was left with the task of painting a mere "newspaper report of the middle ages" ("Zeitungsartikel des Mittelalters").[3] Critics considered these compositions to be creative, learned in composition, masterly in drawing, but also exaggerated in thought and extravagant in style.[2][5][2]


In 1846 Schnorr moved to Dresden to become a professor at the academy there. The next year he was appointed director of the Gemäldegalerie.[1]

Bible illustrations[edit]

"Saul Tries to Kill David"

Schnorr's third period is marked by his Biblical illustrations. He was a Lutheran, and took a broad and un-sectarian view. An 1851 visit to London generated a commission for a Picture Bible, for which he created more than 200 woodcuts.[6] While in London he also received a commission to design windows for St. Paul's Cathedral.[2]

The Picture Bible illustrations were often complex and cluttered; some critics found them wanting in harmony of line and symmetry, judging them to be inferior to equivalent work produced by Raphael. His style differs from the simplicity and severity of earlier times, exhibiting instead the floridity of the later Renaissance.[2]

Stained glass design[edit]

Biblical drawings and cartoons for frescoes formed a natural prelude to designs for church windows. The painter's renown in Germany secured commissions in Great Britain. Schnorr made designs, carried out in the royal factory at Munich, for windows in Glasgow cathedral and in St Paul's Cathedral, London. This Munich glass provoked controversy: medievalists objected to its lack of lustre, and stigmatized the windows as coloured blinds and picture transparencies. But the opposing party claimed for these modern revivals "the union of the severe and excellent drawing of early Florentine oil-paintings with the colouring and arrangement of the glass-paintings of the latter half of the 16th century."[2]


Schnorr died in Munich in 1872.[2]


Schnorr married Maria Heller, the stepdaughter of Ferdinand Olivier, in 1827.[1] Their son Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld was an operatic tenor whose life was cut short by an unexpected illness at the age of 29. He had just begun to gain renown as the first to sing Wagner's Tristan. Schnorr's brother, Ludwig Ferdinand (de) (1788–1853) was also a painter.


  1. ^ a b c d Artist biography in German Masters of the Nineteenth Century, pp.272–3
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911
  3. ^ a b Gossman, Lionel (2003). "Unwilling Moderns: The Nazarene Painters of the Nineteenth Century". Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Schiff, Gert, "An Epoch of longing" in German Masters of the Nineteenth Century, p.18
  5. ^ See also The Burlington Magazine, vol. 101, No. 676/677 (July/August 1959) "The Romantic Exhibition" by Kenneth Garlick
  6. ^ Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld entry in EB


External links[edit]