Hans Baldung Grien, Witch Painter

Hans Baldung Grien, Witch Painter
Hans Baldung Grien, Witch Painter

Hans Baldung has been one of the most prolific painters of the German Renaissance aesthetic, however his works have not been well known by the general public as he specialized in an occult and macabre theme that clashed directly with strict moral norms imposed by the Inquisition throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.


Han Baldung (1485 – 1545) known by the nickname of Grien was born in the German region of Swabia into a we althy family. It seems that the artist's training in the field of painting must have begun around the end of the 1990s and, at the beginning of the 16th century, in 1503 he formed part of the workshop of Albrecht Dürer himself. During this time he was greatly influenced by the activities of his teacher, and Dürer's naturalistic and detailed style is evident in Baldung's engravings such as his Saint Barbara and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Dürer himself was aware of the skills of his disciple, so on more than one occasion, when the master had to be absent from the workshop, it was left in Baldung's hands.

It is known that around the year 1515 Baldung himself would have become independent from his teacher to set up his own painting and engraving workshop in Strasbourg. In reality, and until that moment, Hans Baldung's painting was found in normal art circles; a prolific artist whose subject matter was based on thereligious scenes, which on the other hand were always the best paid, and with a successful aesthetic without being brilliant in this sense, we can find the canvases of Judith, The Virgin of the Parrots or the famous polyptych of the Freiburg Cathedral.

However, from the moment the artist set up his own workshop, the aesthetics of his canvas began to be much more bizarre and satanic than it had been until then. Many times these satanic interpretations were hidden under apparently normal themes such as in the canvas of the Three Graces or the Ages of Life and yet, the typical figures of these representations were accompanied by skeletons or women with contorted faces and dislocated.

In Baldung Grien's work there are constant strange atmospheres that surround the characters as if it were mist; the figures are on many occasions too elongated and their hands chillingly scrawny. The faces, pale and often deformed in strange grimaces, make the characters strange beings. Thus we can highlight works by the artist such as the canvas of the Two Witches painted around the year 1523 and which is currently preserved in the Städel Institute in Frankfurt am Main, The Two Lovers and Death in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna or even the woodcut of the Sabbath, that of the Coat of Arms of the artist's family or the most disturbing of all his productions, El Mozo de Caballería bewitched.

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