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Friedrich Overbeck


Johann Friedrich Overbeck (4 July 1789 – 1869), was a German painter and member of the Nazarene movement. He also made four etchings.

Born in Lübeck, his ancestors for three generations had been Protestant pastors; his father Christian Adolph Overbeck (1755-1821) was doctor of law, poet, mystic pietist and burgomaster of Lubeck. His grandparents were Georg Christian Overbeck (1713-1786), lawyer at Lübeck, and Eleonora Maria Jauch (1732-1797). Within a stones throw of the family mansion in the Konigstrasse stood the gymnasium, where the uncle, doctor of theology and a voluminous writer, was the master; there the nephew became a classic scholar and received instruction in art.

The young artist left Lubeck in March 1806, and entered as student the academy of Vienna, then under the direction of Heinrich Füger, a painter of some renown, but of the neoclassical school of the French Jacques-Louis David. Here was gained thorough knowledge, but the teachings and associations proved unendurable to the sensitive, spiritual-minded youth. Overbeck wrote to a friend that he had fallen among a vulgar set, that every noble thought was suppressed within the academy and that losing all faith in humanity he turned inwardly on himself. These words are a key to his future position and art. It seemed to him that in Vienna, and indeed throughout Europe, the pure springs of Christian art had been for centuries diverted and corrupted, and so he sought out afresh the living source, and, casting on one side his contemporaries, took for his guides the early and pre-Raphael painters of Italy. At the end of four years, differences had grown so irreconcilable that Overbeck and his band of followers were expelled from the academy. True art, he writes, he had sought in Vienna in vain:

Accordingly he left for Rome, carrying his half-finished canvas "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem", as the charter of his creed "I will abide by the Bible; I elect it as my standing-point."

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