Hans Baldung

Hans Baldung or Hans Baldung Grien/Grun (c. 1480 - 1545). German (Alsatian) Renaissance artist. He was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Durer.

He was born at Gmund in Swabia, and spent the greater part of his life at Strassburg and Freiburg in Breisgau.

The earliest pictures assigned to him are altar-pieces with the monogram H. B. interlaced, and the date of 1496, in the monastery chapel of Lichtenthal near Baden. Another early work is a portrait of the emperor Maximilian, drawn in 1501 on a leaf of a sketch-book now in the print-room at Karlsruhe. "The Martyrdom of St Sebastian and the Epiphany" (Berlin Museum), fruits of his labour in 1507, were painted for the market-church of Halle in Saxony. In 1509 Grun purchased the freedom of the city of Strassburg, and resided there till 1513, when he moved to Freiburg in Breisgau. There he began a series of large compositions, which he finished in 1516, and placed on the high altar of the Freiburg cathedral. He purchased anew the freedom of Strassburg in 1517, resided in that city as his domicile, and died a member of its great town council 1545.

Though nothing is known of Grun's youth and education, it may be inferred from his style that he was no stranger to the school of which Durer was the chief. Gmund is but 50 miles distant on either side from Augsburg and Nuremberg. Grun's prints were often mistaken for those of Durer; and Durer himself was well acauainted with Grun's woodcuts and copper-plates in which he traded during his trip to the Netherlands (1520). But Grun's prints, though Dureresque, are far below Durer, and his paintings are below his prints.

Without absolute correctness as a draughtsman, his conception of human form is often very unpleasant, whilst a questionable taste is shown in ornament equally profuse and baroque. Nothing is more remarkable in his pictures than the pug-like shape of the faces, unless we except the coarseness of the extremities. No trace is apparent of any feeling for atmosphere or light and shade. Though Grun has been commonly called the Correggio of the north, his compositions are a curious medley of glaring and heterogeneous colours, in which pure black is contrasted with pale yellow, dirty grey, impure red and glowing green. Flesh is a mere glaze under which the features are indicated by lines.

His works are mainly interesting because of the wild and fantastic strength which some of them display. We may pass lightly over the "Epiphany" of 1507, the "Crucifixion" of 1512, or the "Stoning of Stephen" of 1522, in the Berlin Museum. There is some force in the "Dance of Death" of 1517, in the museum of Basel, or the Madonna of 1530, in the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna. Grun's best effort is the altarpiece of Freiburg, where the Coronation of the Virgin, and the Twelve Apostles, the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and Flight into Egypt, and the Crucifixion, with portraits of donors, are executed with some of that fanciful power which Martin Schon bequeathed to the Swabian school.

As a portrait painter he is well known. He drew the likeness of Charles V, as well as that of Maximilian; and his bust of Margrave Philip in the Munich Gallery tells us that he was connected with the reigning family of Baden, as early as 1514. At a later period he had sittings from Margrave Christopher of Baden, Ottilia his wife, and all their children, and the picture containing these portraits is still in the grand-ducal gallery at Karlsruhe. Like Durer and Cranach, Grun became a hearty supporter of the Reformation. He was present at the diet of Augsburg in 1518, and one of his woodcuts represents Luther under the protection of the Holy Ghost, which hovers over him in the shape of a dove.