HANS BALDUNG GRIEN Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Hans Baldung Grien(b. 1484-85, Schwabisch-Gmund, Wurttemberg (now Germany); d. 1545, Imperial Free City of Strasbourg (now France)). German painter and graphic artist. He probably trained with Durer in Nuremberg, but his brilliant color, expressive use of distortion, and taste for the gruesome bring him closer in spirit to his other great German contemporary, Grunewald.


Hans Baldung, called Grien, was most probably born in Schwabisch Gmund in southwestern Germany, the site of the family home. The most important evidence for deducing his date of birth (between 1484 and 1485) is a self-portrait drawing at age 49 which is preparatory to a 1534 woodcut. It has been pointed out that Hans Baldung was the only male member of his family not to receive a university education, for unlike many artists, he belonged to a family of academics, intellectuals, and professionals: he was surrounded by physicians, lawyers and scholars. His father was an attorney who seems by 1492 to have settled in Alsace. It is usually assumed that Baldung’s earliest training took place around 1499/1500 in the Upper Rhine, perhaps with a Strasbourg artist, but an apprenticeship in Swabia has also been suggested. He probably trained with a painter from Martin Schongauer’s school.


Baldung and Durer
By 1503 Baldung had moved to Nuremberg and had become a member of Albrecht Durer’s workshop. It was probably here that he acquired the nickname “Grien", perhaps a reference to his use of the color green or a preference for green attire – he has a marked affinity for the color green, and many of his religious scenes are bathed in a weird, supernatural glow. It could also have distinguished him from Hans Schaufelein, Hans Suss von Kulmbach, and Hans Durer, Albrecht’s younger brother, all of whom were in Durer’s atelier. Baldung immediately absorbed Durer’s formal vocabulary, as is evident in one of his earliest dated works, the 1503 pen drawing of Aristotle and Phyllis. This picture symbolizes the power of the women by representing the phylosopher Aristotle as he brings on his back his lover, Phyllis. This story was often pictured by Renaissance artists


In 1505 he produced alongside Durer most of the woodcuts from Ulrich Pinder’s book, Beschlossen Gart, and after Durer’s departure to Italy in 1505, he illustrated Speculum Passionis from the same author. It is quite possible that Baldung became head of the workshop during Durer’s second journey to Italy in 1505-1507, and these years saw the production of designs for stained glass, woodcuts from 1505 on, and engravings beginning in 1507. Durer and Baldung remained lifelong friends, and on his trip to the Netherlands Durer took along some of Baldung’s woodcuts to sell.


In 1507 Baldung was probably in Halle where he had received commissions for two altarpieces, the triptychs of The Adoration of the Magi (Berlin) and Saint Sebastian (Nurnberg museum). Although still displaying some clumsiness, colors are surprisingly sure, and Baldung’s self-esteem is revealed by the fact that he drew a self-portrait behind the main character at the center of the retable of Saint Sebastian.


In 1509 the artist returned to Strasbourg and became a citizen. He soon became famous, and later even became a member of the town council. The following year he married Margarethe Herlin, joined the guild “zur Steltz", opened a workshop, and began signing his works with the HGB monogram that he used for the rest of his career. In addition to traditional, religious subjects, Baldung was concerned during these years with the profane theme of the imminence of death and with scenes of sorcery and witchcraft. He was responsible for introducing supernatural and erotic themes into German art. He often depicted witches, also a local interest: Strasbourg’s humanists studied witchcraft and its bishop was charged with ferreting out witches.


Along with Cranach and Hans Burgkmair, he was one of the earliest masters of the chiaroscuro woodcut.


His most characteristic paintings are fairly small in scale; a series of puzzling, often erotic allegories and mythological works, exemplified by Death Kissing a Maiden (1517, Offentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel) involve the motif of a female nude threatened by a grotesque skeleton, a subject he treated several times. In The Three Ages of Woman and Death (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, c. 1510), the beauty of the human body is confronted with the appalling image of Death, represented as a cadaver similar to the allegory of the Vanitas, inspired by the Middle-Ages macabre dances.