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Émile Verhaeren: Essays on the Northern Renaissance

Rembrandt, Rubens, Grünewald and Others- Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Albert Alhadeff

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Edited By Albert Alhadeff

Émile Verhaeren (1855–1916), art critic, poet and homme de lettres, was a man whose vision transcended his native Belgium. With close ties to Mallarmé in France and Rilke in Germany, Verhaeren, a peripatetic student of the arts, readily traveled to Paris, Berlin, Cassel, Vienna and Amsterdam. From the mid-1880s until his death in 1916, his many trips abroad resulted in a raft of essays and short monographs on the arts of the Northern Renaissance. Yet, despite the insights, scholarship and markedly precise and revealing descriptions of these studies, they have long been neglected in art historical circles, overshadowed, perhaps, by Verhaeren’s own poetic outpourings and his numerous essays on contemporary art.
In this book, Albert Alhadeff translates, edits, annotates and contextualizes these often brilliant and always revealing studies on artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Memling, Bruegel and Grünewald, masters from the North who worked mostly in Flanders, Holland and Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Alhadeff reveals, Verhaeren’s studies of the masters of old in Germany, Flanders and the newly born Dutch Republic are as much about Verhaeren the man as they are about the subjects of his inquiries.

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PART 3

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Grünewald the PAInter Matthias Grünewald d’Aschaffenburg1 On the 15th of August 1886, after a visit to the museum in Cassel, I wrote the following piece in a Brussels paper which you’ll allow me to recall here: “God in three beings: Dürer, Holbein, Cranach—so German gothic art ap- pears to those who have never deigned to study it. To know it and to see it as superb, complex and grandiose, one must have the patience to linger in minor museums and ponder pictures in little known cities such as Augsburg, Nurem- berg, Bamberg, Cassel. Accepting this, we see how German gothic art rises to new heights, how it casts a profound, complex and tenebrous image, and how it grandly embodies the Germany of the middle ages with its crude, untamed beliefs, its barbaric pieties and mystical customs, and how many of its all but forgotten masters can at times overwhelm or diminish those who, as most see it, embody their country’s glories. “Oh! the primitives of Köln, the anonymous many who first multiplied all of Christ’s pain and all of Mary’s joys upon a honey-combed gold ground, and then the Wilhelm’s and the Stephan’s and that remarkable De Bruyn, a most expert portraitist whose oils capture the grands bourgeoisie of the city with acute details and power. And then finally, the masters of the polyptychs of the altars, that of the Life of the Virgin, the Altar of Saint-Severin and especially that of the Passion of...

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