Albrecht Durer was a German painter, theorist, and printmaker of the German Renaissance. During his 20s, Durer established his reputation as a popular printmaker across Europe, thanks to his high-quality woodcut prints. His popularity enabled him to work with major Italian artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Bellini, and Raphael. Albrecht Durer also influenced generations of artists, especially in printmaking.
Credit goes to Johannes Gutenberg for transforming book-making from manuscripts to the printed form as he introduced the movable-type printing press in the 15th century. The German printer and publisher’s invention contributed to mass communication during the Renaissance. He was not successful in his business and was exiled during the later years of his life. He was also a goldsmith.
Max Ernst was a German painter, graphic artist, sculptor, and poet. A pioneer of the Dada movement, Ernst played an important role in popularizing surrealism during the early-20th century. He is also credited with inventing a couple of techniques, namely frottage and grattage. In 2005, the Max Ernst Museum was opened in his honor in Brühl, Germany.
Hans Holbein the Younger was a German printmaker and painter. Regarded as one of the 16th century's greatest portraitists, Holbein was also renowned for producing Reformation propaganda, satire, and religious art. Many of his portraits are now considered cultural icons. Holbein is also credited with contributing immensely to the evolution of book design.
Caspar David Friedrich was a German painter best remembered for painting mid-period allegorical landscapes. Widely regarded as the most important German painter of his era, Friedrich is celebrated as an important figure of the German Romantic movement. His works have influenced several painters, including Johan Christian Dahl, Arnold Böcklin, and Christiane Pooley.
Best known as one of the founders of the German Expressionist group The Blue Rider, German painter Franz Marc mostly depicted animals through his works. The Tower of Blue Horses and Yellow Cow are two of his notable works. Children and the mentally disabled also appeared as his subjects.
German visual artist Gerhard Richter started out as a Social Realist painter and was later exposed to avant-garde art. He mastered the art of painting scenes collected from newspapers and magazines, including terrorists and serial killer victims. He later also worked on stained-glass design and abstract art.
E. T. A. Hoffmann was a German author, jurist, artist, composer, and music critic. His stories served as an inspiration and laid the foundation for The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is also based on Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffmann is among the most influential authors of the Romantic Movement.
Günter Grass was a German novelist, illustrator, graphic artist, poet, playwright, and sculptor. A much revered and decorated writer, Grass was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. Over the course of his illustrious career, Günter Grass won many other awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Hermann Kesten Prize.
German painter, engraver and printmaker Otto Dix, counted among the most significant artists of Neue Sachlichkeit, is noted for his harsh and brutal depictions of war and severe situation of German society during the Weimar Republic. Some of his paintings, exhibited in Otto Dix House, which showcases materials on his life and work, include Selbstbildnis als Rauchern and Meine Freundin Elis.
Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg, to a German father and a French mother. After studying art in Paris and Switzerland, he co-created The Modern Alliance and participated in the Dada and Abstraction-Création movements. An avant-garde painter and sculptor, he also experimented with media such as embroidery.
Landscape painter Albert Bierstadt immortalized the natural attractions of the American West, such as the Rocky Mountains, in his works. One of the finest painters of the Hudson River school, he specialized in paintings that showcased bright lighting, or luminism, and created over 500 paintings throughout his career.
It is believed Joseph Beuys was rescued by Tartars when his air force plane broke down in Crimea during World War II. He later gained fame as an avant-garde sculptor and artist and part of the group Fluxus. His works used unconventional media, with some even including staged actions.
William Alexander was a German painter, television host, and art instructor. He is credited with creating the popular television series, The Magic of Oil Painting, which he hosted from 1974 to 1982 on PBS in the USA. Bill Alexander is also credited with teaching Bob Ross his signature wet-on-wet technique.
German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder enriched the German Renaissance with his paintings and wood engravings. A court painter of the Electors of Saxony, he specialized in painting both nudes and ladies in fine clothing, and mostly depicted biblical and mythological themes. He also inspired the Danube school of Austria.
One of the pioneers of Expressionism, German painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner co-established the artists’ group Die Brücke, or The Bridge. His iconic works such as Girl under Japanese Umbrella and Street, Berlin displayed psychological and erotic themes. Declared a "degenerate" by the Nazis, he later committed suicide.
Part of the Camden Town Group of painters, who showcased both Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, German-born British painter Walter Sickert liked painting both people and scenes. His work Jack the Ripper's Bedroom gave rise to speculations that he could have been either the killer or his accomplice.
German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter Oskar Fischinger is most-noted for creating abstract musical animation decades before development of computer graphics. Among the 50 short films he made, the short animated film Motion Painting No. 1 is listed on the United States National Film Registry. He also created special effects for the German sci-fi silent film Woman in the Moon.
German/New Zealand visual artist Sandro Kopp is based in Scotland and explores “mediated presence.” His work merges new-age digital elements with classical painting. He is also known as the boyfriend of Academy Award-winning actor Tilda Swinton. His works have been exhibited all across the globe, including France and Italy.
German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, counted among leading figures of the Neo-Expressionist art movement of the late 20th century, is noted for his works like The Hierarchy of Angels (painting), The Secret Life of Plants (sculpture) and Grane (woodcut). Themes of Kiefer were often influenced by the spiritual concepts of Kabbalah, horror of the Holocaust and poems of Paul Celan.
German artist and poet Kurt Schwitters, known for collage, artist's book, installation, sculpture and poetry, is noted for his collages and relief-constructions. Schwitters planned a Dada section in Hanover and the Merz art-style traces back to him, which he found by chance while forming a collage with the German word Kommerz. One of his notable works is Das Undbild, 1919.
Hans Memling was a 15th-century painter who worked in the tradition of Early Netherlandish painting. He trained in the Brussels workshop of prominent painter Rogier van der Weyden. With time, he became one of the leading artists in the region and ran a large workshop. He was extremely successful and died a wealthy man.
German Expressionist artist George Grosz, later a naturalized US citizen, is most noted for his caricatural drawings and paintings of Berlin life. A leading member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity groups during the Weimar Republic, Grosz later departed from his earlier style and subjects and taught at the Art Students League of New York for several years.
German painter and sculptor Oskar Schlemmer had gained fame both for his paintings and for his choreographed avant-garde ballet productions such as Triadisches Ballett. He was a major influence behind bringing modern art exhibitions to the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Art. He had also served in World War I.
Max Beckmann was a German painter, sculptor, draftsman, printmaker, and writer. Even though scholars classify him as an Expressionist artist, he personally never identified as one. He became involved with the New Objectivity movement in the 1920s. He taught at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University in his last years.
German art-forger and artist Wolfgang Beltracchi gained notoriety for his involvement in an international art scam where he forged paintings of famous artists like Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Heinrich Campendonk, and Kees van Dongen and sold them to make profits that surpassed $100m. Beltracchi and his wife, Helene, were found guilty and were given six-year and four-year prison terms respectively.
Arno Breker was a German architect and sculptor who was active during Nazi rule. The authorities endorsed his work as the antithesis of degenerate art. He created the statue Die Partei, representing the spirit of the Nazi Party. Hitler exempted Breker from military service and provided him several amenities for being the Nazi’s official sculptor.
German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald, also known as Master Mathis, was the court painter of the elector of Mainz. His drawings were mostly made in black chalk. Of his religious works, the Isenheim Altarpiece still survives, though most of his works were destroyed in the Thirty Years' War.
Karl Blossfeldt was a German photographer, artist, sculptor, and teacher. He is best remembered for his work Urformen der Kunst, a collection of close-up photos of animals and plants. The book became highly influential and Blossfeldt's works were used as teaching tools in Berlin. Blossfeldt also served as a professor at the United State Schools for Fine and Applied Art.
Heinz Linge went from being a bricklayer to a Schutzstaffel official. He joined Adolf Hitler’s household staff, as his valet. Stationed at the Führerbunker with Hitler during the fall of the Nazis, he was eventually tasked with cremating Hitler’s body. Captured by the Red Army, he later penned a memoir.
John Heartfield was a German visual artist. He is credited to have pioneered the use of art as a political weapon. He used photomontages to satirize Adolf Hitler and depict his anti-Nazi and anti-fascist sentiments. He studied at the Royal Bavarian Arts and Crafts School and went on to launch a publishing house, Malik-Verlag, with his brother.
Born to a farmer in Germany’s Black Forest, Franz Xaver Winterhalter was initially trained as a lithographer. The nineteenth-century German painter later gained fame for his paintings and portraits of Europe’s royalty and aristocracy. Among his subjects were Queen Victoria of England and Elizabeth of Austria.
A leader of the Expressionist group The Blue Rider, German artist August Macke had initially drawn inspiration from his amateur artist father’s paintings. His works, such as Three Girls in a Barque, focused on human subjects and mingled German and French traditions. He was killed while fighting in World War I.
German-Danish painter, watercolourist and printmaker Emil Nolde is counted among the first Expressionists and oil painting and watercolour painters of the early 20th-century who explored colour. He was a Die Brücke member and is noted for his expressive choice of colours, his brushwork, and his violent religious works. Notable works of Nolde include Lesende junge Frau and Blumen und Wolken.
Although considered the foremost promoter of Impressionism in Germany, painter and printmaker Max Liebermann never fully detached himself from his subject matters. Known for his works on the life and labor of the poor, including peasants, urban laborers, and orphans, portraying their plight through paintings like The Flax Spinners., he successfully maintained the narrative tradition of the German art.
Georg Baselitz is a German painter, sculptor, and graphic artist known for his figurative, expressive paintings. He grew up in the wake of World War II, and the concept of destruction is an underlying theme seen in many of his works. He is known for inverting all his paintings. He is a recipient of the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.
German Surrealist artist Hans Bellmer is best known for his life-sized female dolls and erotic photography. He released the anonymous book Die Puppe. It is believed some of his dolls featured grotesque additions to reflect the Nazi obsession with perfection. He also collaborated with Unica Zürn for a bizarre photo series.
Considered one of the pioneers of industrial design, German architect Peter Behrens had built his own house and all his furniture at the Darmstadt artists’ colony. The AEG Turbine Factory was one of his best-known works, and he had also designed their electric fans, lamps, and retail shops.