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Pater Desiderius Lenz at Beuron: History, Egyptology, and Modernism in Nineteenth-Century German Monastic Art

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image of Religion and the Arts

The text is an introduction to the art made by a Benedictine community of artist/monks in the village of Beuron in the state of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in southwestern Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The founder of the school, Pater Desiderius Lenz, studied art in Munich, received a scholarship to work in Rome, but discovered the source for his work in the flat two-dimensional colored drawings and prints of Egyptian art in albums published by the German archaeologist, Richard Lepsius. The iconic and non-empathetic style of Beuron art inspired by Lenz's ideas and writings is discussed with respect to its source in the Benedictine experience, bonded as it is to the church walls and to the Gregorian chanting of the monastic choirs. But at the same time, because of its rejection of the form and expression of the three-dimensional world of man and nature, it is characterized as being Modernist as well, an early by-product of that twentieth century stylistic phenomenon. Through Lenz's first architectural project, the St. Maurus Chapel above the Danube near Beuron, and his evolving exploration of the subject of the Pieta, his Egypto-Modernist religious imagery is described.

Affiliations: 1: University of the Arts


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