Western Art - Dusseldorf School of Painting - Where Art is a Tradition

Dusseldorf School of Painting

In 1762, Lambert Krahe started the Düsseldorf School of Painting, Germany, today better known as the Düsseldorf State Art Academy, as a drawing school. In 1773, Elector Palatine Carl Theodore (1742-77) renamed it as the Electoral College of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1819, the Prussian Government named the school as the Royal Arts Academy of Düsseldorf. German painter Peter von Cornelius (1784-1867) was the first director of the Düsseldorf School.

The Evolution

By mid 19th century, the Düsseldorf School of Painting established as one of the most commendable places to study art, a position the Dresden Academy held earlier. This can be hugely accredited to the efforts of German Romantic Painter Wilhelm von Schadow (1788-1862), who became the director of the Academy in 1826. He attracted a large number of students and colleagues to the institution. Schadow developed a unique instruction programme and emphasized on creating naturalistic paintings. The academy propagated all kinds of painting, from genre to still life, to portraits, to landscapes.

In 1827, German Landscape Painters Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808-80) and Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807-63) formed the Society of Landscape Composers. Schirmer helped introduce special training classes for Landscape Painting. Students were encouraged to capture the various aspects of nature, using the 'Plein Air' method (which means painting out in the open). Lessing, along with other contemporaries, like Ferdinand Theodore Hildebrandt (1804-74) and Karl Wilhelm Hübner (1814-79), were known to produce staged theatrical paintings with political undertones. Lessing's 'Hussite Sermon' (1836) is a milestone in the type. Though the Düsseldorf School was a part of the German Romantic Movement, with time however, it evolved from Romantic-Poetic styles to the Neoclassicist ones. By the end of the 19th century, the Düsseldorf School of Painting boasted of astounding 4000 artist alumni that came from different parts of the world, making it one of the leading German sites for learning art.

The Details

The Düsseldorf School had their first ever exhibition in 1836, which displayed the Düsseldorf Painters' clear bent on Linearism. After that, the artists changed path and experimented with the various light and color tones. Some of the typical features of the Düsseldorf School paintings are elaborated subject matter, stress on lighting, a subdued color palette, and dramatic allegorical illustrations. Their Landscape Paintings displayed skillful details and were mostly based on historical or biblical subjects.

The Artists

The Düsseldorf School had a major influence on the American art school Hudson River. It inspired many important American artists, like George Caleb Bingham (1811-79), Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927), and Worthington Whitredge (1820-1910). Some of the other outstanding contributors associated with the School were Ludwig Knaus Hans Fredrik Gude, Christian Kohler (1809-61), and brothers Oswald Achenbach (1827-1905) & Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910). Even today, the Düsseldorf Academy enjoys its prime position in the international art scene.