Herz-Jesu-Bild
Lukas Steiner and Gabriel Wüger
ca. 1871/1874
oil on canvas
2.13 x 1.22 m
credit: Courtesy of Harald Siebenmorgen


QUASI-ANONYOMOUS MONKS

Desiderius Lenz (1832–1923), the leading theoretician of the Beuronese school of art, enunciated a number of principles he believed were congruent with godly art. Among them were these:

• Art should be an anonymous collective effort, not for the glory of a single artist, but for the glory of God.

• Individualistic style should be minimized in favor of a collective style.

• The geometric sense of proportion found in ancient Egyptian paintings should be followed.

• Art and architecture should be fully integrated; painting and sculpture should not be decorative afterthoughts, but part of a preconceived architectural plan.

In the early 1860s, Lenz befriended Gabriel Wüger (1829–1892) in Vienna with whom he shared an interest in contemporary art. Shortly thereafter they joined a group of artists in Rome called the Nazarenes, noted for their unconventional manner of dress and program to revitalize Christian art. Lenz and Wüger believed that in order to make sacred art one should lead a Christian life in a community.

In 1868, they met Maurus Wolter (1825–1890), the young abbot co-founder of the Beuron Benedictine monastery in southwest Germany, who had similar artistic aspirations. At the invitation of Princess Catherine of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1817–1893), who was the patron of the monastery, Lenz and Wüger designed and constructed a chapel, the Mauruskapelle, near Beuron, which incorporated their theories about the harmonious blend of art and architecture. Wüger entered the Beuron monastery in 1870, soon followed by his disciple Lukas Steiner (1849–1906), and Lenz in 1872.

With the encouragement of Wolter, Lenz and Wüger attracted other artists to Beuron, who worked together on a number of churches in Europe. Their use of plain backgrounds, basic colors, limited use of perspective, a repetition of decoration, and a conscious neglect of details became the hallmarks of the Beuronese style. Paul Cezanne (1839–1906), Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), and Vincent van Gogh 1853–1890) were familiar with Beuronese art, which influenced the French school of art known as Nabis, whose founder Maurice Denis (1870–1943) visited Beuron several times.

This painting though unsigned, as is all Beuronese art, is attributed to Steiner and Wüger. Originally meant for the side altar in the cloister at Beuron, it was deemed too severe. Instead the painting attributed to Andreas Amrhein (1844–1927), who went on to establish the Benedictine St. Ottilien Archabbey also in southwest Germany, was chosen.

 

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