Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Grünewald, Matthias (c. 1475–1528)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German painter, architect, and engineer. His altarpiece at Isenheim, southern Alsace, (1515, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France), with its grotesquely tortured figure of Jesus and its radiant Resurrection, is his most important work.

During 1508–1514 he was painter to the archbishop of Mainz in Aschaffenburg, and after 1514 to the elector of Mainz, Albrecht von Brandenburg (1490–1545). His later years were occupied by a series of paintings ordered by the elector of Mainz for the Cathedral of Halle (where Grünewald also had the function of hydraulic engineer).

To his contemporaries he was ‘Matthis of Aschaffenburg’. He was trained in Alsace in the style of Martin Schongauer (though unlike the latter he produced no engravings), and is first mentioned in 1501 in the archives of Seligenstadt, near Aschaffenburg.

On the Isenheim altarpiece there are Crucifixion on the closed shutters, Mourning on the predella, Nativity and Concert of Angels, and Annunciation and Resurrection. When fully opened, it shows St Anthony and scenes of his temptation and his visit to St Paul in the desert. Although it retained many medieval characteristics, this complex work brought a new emotional range to German art. Apart from the Isenheim altarpiece, Grünewald's remaining work is fragmentary: Christ Mocked (Munich); a Crucifixion (Basel); parts of altarpieces in Stuppach, Freiburg im Breisgau, Karlsruhe, and Aschaffenburg; a fine late work (part of the Halle commission) is The Meeting of St Erasmus and St Maurice (Munich).


Grünewald, Matthias, altarpiece

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.