Johann Friedrich Overbeck

Johann Friedrich Overbeck (Lübeck, Germany, 3 July 1789 – 12 November 1869), was a German painter draftsman and illustrator. He is considered a protagonist of the Nazarene art. The characteristics of the style thus educed were nobility of idea, precision and even hardness of outline, scholastic composition, with the addition of light, shade and colour, not for allurement, but chiefly for perspicuity and completion of motive.

While Overbeck clearly accrued some of the polished technical aspects of the neoclassic painters, he was alienated by lack of religious spirituality in the themes chosen by his masters.

He was joined by a company of like-minded artists, including Peter von Cornelius, Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow and Philipp Veit, Their precept was hard and honest work and holy living; they eschewed the antique as pagan, the Renaissance as false, and built up a severe revival on simple nature and on the serious art of Perugino, Pinturicchio, Francesco Francia and the young Raphael.

He also made four etchings.

Friedrich Overbeck was a son of the Lübeck mayor, senator, canon, lawyer and poet. Christian Adolph Overbeck (1755-1821) and grandson of the jurist Georg Christian Overbeck (1713-1786) and his wife Eleonora Maria Jauch (1732-1797).

Overbeck had always liked to draw, and an old artillery officer named Mau, who also gave drawing lessons, was his first teacher. On the Michaelist Day 1803 he had entered the Prima of the Lübeck Katharineum.

In 1804, which may be regarded as the year of Overbeck’s artistic birth, he had, not yet fifteen years, succeeded in his father’s bringing him to the painter Joseph Nicolaus Peroux, who was living in Lübeck at that time. This was the one who sparked the first love fire to divine art.

On 6 March 1806 leaving his parents’ house and thus Lübeck for ever, he moved to Vienna to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. Heinrich Friedrich Füger taught there. Out of dissatisfaction with the classicism of the academy, Overbeck broke his studies there in 1810 and moved to Rome together with Franz Pforr and Ludwig Vogel.

As early as in Vienna, in 1809 the friends had founded the Lukasbund, a group of artists who devoted themselves to the revival of art in the spirit of Christianity from the rediscovery of ancient Italian and German art, following the model of medieval Lukasgilden. Philipp Veit and Peter Cornelius joined them. They lived in monastic community in Sant’Isidoro on the Pincio in Rome. Under the influence of Cardinal Pietro Ostini, Overbeck converted to the Roman Catholic Church in April 1813.

Their designation as a Nazarene because of their hairiness was at first mocking, but the term “nazarenian art” became common. 1816/17 Breakthrough with Casa Bartholdy, the residence of Prussian ambassador Jakob Ludwig Salomon Bartholdy, by Overbeck, Cornelius, Veit and Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow with frescoes to Josephslegende (now in the Old National Gallery, Berlin). 1817-1828 Casino Massimo by Overbeck, Cornelius, Veit and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, who lived with August Grahl in the Palazzo Caffarelli as a guest of the German ambassador of Bunsen. In 1826 Overbeck declined the offer of the Bavarian King Ludwig I to take over a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich as well as a corresponding offer from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In 1829, he also rejected the offer of the Städelsch Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main. As a patriarchal figure worshiped by friends and numerous pupils, filled with deep faith, the “Catholic internationalist” (Jens Christian Jensen) held fast to the conservative ideal of the early years even to his death, even as the religious painting of the late Nazarenes had long been characterized by post-romanticism and realism Was overtaken. His appreciation in ecclesiastical circles is confirmed by a personal visit to Pope Pius IX. In Overbecks house in Rome. In addition, Overbeck belonged to the painter Johann Michael Wittmer, the physician Clemens August Alertz, and others to the board of the archbishopric of Campo Santo Teutonico in Rome. His fiance child and his son-in-law, the Roman sculptor Karl Hoffmann (1816-1872), created the epitaph Overbecks in the church of San Bernardo all Terme in Rome, where he was buried.

Under Anton de Waal, the Archbishop attempted to transfer the corpse to the Campo Santo, where Overbeck’s wife Anna (around 1790-1853), her two deceased daughters and the son (1840) were also buried.

With Peter Cornelius Overbeck is one of the most significant representatives of the attempt to renew the German painting of a religious spirit in the 19th century. Overbeck’s work and his role as leader of the Nazarenes have increasingly turned their attention to the past decades, recognizable in a series of publications and major exhibitions in Frankfurt, 1977, Rome 1981, Munich 1984 and Lübeck 1989. His work is one of the collection foci of the Lübeck Museum Behnhaus.