Lionel Gossman’s Making of a Romantic Icon: The Religious Context of Friedrich Overbeck’s “Italia und Germania” (American Philosophical Society Transaction 97-5; ISBN: 0871699753)

June 30, 2010 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Making of a Romantic Icon: The Religious Context of Friedrich Overbeck’s “Italia und Germania”
(American Philosophical Society Transaction 97-5, ISBN: 0871699753)
by Lionel Gossman (Paperback, 101 pages, 2007, $29.00)

Winner of the American Philosophical Society’s 2007 John Frederick Lewis Award for Best Book or Monograph.

Making of a Romantic Icon In this original and thought-provoking book, Princeton University Prof. Emeritus Lionel Gossman, focuses on Johann Friedrich Overbeck’s “Italia and Germania” to discuss the importance of religious conversion in Romantic thought.

It treats the evolution of the Nazarene artists’ preoccupation with religious issues in an engaging manner and offers a social-historical and theological context to Overbeck’s painting by looking interestingly at a wide range of issues and contacts in his early Nazarene period. Illustrations.

“I was led to the once-influential Nazarene artists while preparing the Burckhardt section of my book on Basel,” author Lionel Gossman tells the American Philosophical Society. Burckhardt condemned them as retrograde, but I found their rejection of realism refreshing. The rigorous composition, pronounced linearity, and flat colors of their paintings and frescoes, and the strength, yet delicacy of their drawings appealed to me.

“They also struck me as quite close to the the neo-classical artists, with whom they are sometimes contrasted, but with whom several of them had in fact studied and who, like them, denounced the subservience of baroque and rococo art to the desires and pleasures of the rich and powerful.

“The painting now known as ‘Italia und Germania’ by Friedrich Overbeck, was the culmination of a series of drawings and paintings executed by Overbeck and his close friend Franz Pforr. But the preliminary works were entitled “Sulamith und Maria.”

“In view of the keen attention the Nazarenes paid to the literary and symbolic aspects of their work, and the important role religion played in their art and lives, I was intrigued — and moved — by this title and I wondered what it might have meant to the artists. The Making of a Romantic Icon resulted from my attempt to find out.”

Book News writes in a review: “In this well-illustrated essay, Gossman discusses Overbeck’s well-known painting to show layers of religious and philosophical context. Details concerning the artist’s life and the artistic and intellectual circle around him in Rome are described in the account.”

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