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“Mit dem Kreidestift und Farben”: Revolutionizing Grünewald in the German Democratic Republic, Tamara Golan
In 1952, the director of East Berlin’s Märkisches Museum discovered three drawings by Matthias Grünewald pasted into a Luther Bible. These slender works set off a fascinating tale of art historical espionage, but also helped to construct Grünewald’s image as a revolutionary and peasant sympathizer. I examine the artist’s transformation into an embodiment of the GDR’s socialist ideals by interrogating East German art historian W.K. Zülch’s analyses of the newly discovered drawings, which used formal analysis—rather than historical evidence—to figure Grünewald as an ideological accomplice in the German Peasants War of 1525. Significantly, Zülch presented the artist’s strategies (“Kreidestift und Farben”) as a way to reconcile form and political content, offering an alternative Socialist model to the SED’s state-sponsored culture.
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