Whilst the Third Reich attempted to destroy art from those they termed the 'degenerates' in and around WWII, this region has thankfully produced much more significant art than it has damaged. Some may have rejected modern art styles from the likes of Marc and Kirchner, but plenty more within Germany supported it wholeheartedly. Previous to this was the Northern Renaissance, to which Germany contributed the likes of Albrecht Durer. One normally considers art from the Netherlands when discussing the merits of art from Northern Europe, but Germany also has much to offer and continues to display an exciting variety of work across very different styles and mediums with no sign that this will end anytime soon.
Traditionally the Renaissance has been considered solely an Italian creation which then spread across to impact other regions but in more recent times there has been a growing acceptance of the important role in its development in other countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany. Durer, for example, was an exceptionally skilled technician who also produced some of the finest contributions to the mediums of woodcuts and engravings during this period, with few Italians able to work at the same standard. He was also more of a spearhead to an overall movement across the country, with others also being involved though not achieving the same level of exposure. This page attempts to draw your attention to the most significant painters, draughtsmen and sculptors to have come from Germany, or the Greater German Empire, in all movements since the Middle Ages.
Besides individual artists, Germany has also contributed several key art movements which were all based in the region. They involved the grouping of like-minded artists who would often share time in each other's company and often even work collaboratively. They may not have had the fame of groundbreaking periods such as the French Impressionists but they were still highly influential nevertheless and their impact went well beyond just the boundaries of their own country. Der Blaue Reiter, the German Expressionists, Die Brücke and the Munich School were some of the most memorable of these. Invariably these groups would be led by some of the names featured here, with other artists in their particular region of the country then coming on board to develop their shared ideas into an official movement.
European art history has fluctuated over the past few centuries with one region dominating for an extended period before new ideas suddenly appear somewhere else. Germany has had several spells in the limelight but is still lesser respected than the contributions of France and Italy, particularly with those who have only a fleeting interest in art history. You would also be wise to check out the contributions by British and Spanish artists too. And we can never forget the extraordinary work that was produced during the Dutch Golden Age, which touched on many cultural aspects including painting, architecture and literature. Prior to these key movements, many ideas would actually come in from outside the continent, fuelled by the exchange of ideas and cultures during the colonial era.
List of Famous German Artists
We have included some thumbnails below of the best artists to have come from this region over the past few centuries, but it was a hard task to narrow it down to just twelve. Plenty more are well worthy of note, and others that would have made the list were it a little longer would have been George Grosz, Emil Nolde, Max Liebermann, Jean Arp, Adolph Menzel, Josef Albers and Erich Heckel. Beyond that, there are also notable artists who were born in neighbouring countries and who played an important role within the development of German art, such as Swiss Paul Klee and Austrian Gustav Klimt. Others would actually leave the boundaries of this country to leave an impact elsewhere, such as Hans Holbein.