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Lilie, Licht und Gottes Weisheit: Philipp Otto Runge und Jacob Böhme

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The influence of Jacob Böhme on early Romantic art and its philosophy has been largely neglected by modern scholars, even though tracing the impact of Böhme's writing opens a wide range of new interpretations and leads to a deeper understanding. Phillip Otto Runge's life, his theory and works bear testimony to Böhme's importance. The article is divided into five sections: The historical and biographical background (1) forms the basis of describing Runge's demand for a new form of art (“Neue Kunst”) (2): Art is considered as the revelation of God and the artist as its tool, while the artist's imagination creates the insight of God. It is the artists' duty to re-create the diverging harmony of man and cosmos in the sense of an artistic-spiritual revolution. Due to his early death, Runge managed only partly to put his ambitions into practice, notably in the Morning of his Four Times of a Day (Die Vier [Tages-] Zeiten) which was the only one of the four copperplate prints that was finally painted in colours. In its copperplate version (3), Runge uses rich symbolic features that show both his theoretical ambitions and Böhme's influence. The author argues that Runge's work reflects Böhme's ideas of God and the Holy Trinity, angels, the creation of the world, and “Christosophierdquo. In order to understand the full impact of Runge's works, it is also necessary to explain his theory of colours (Farbentheorie) (4). Colours are perceived to be “signature rerum” which indicate the possibility to return to God. Runge's theories of light, the trinity of the primary colours and the harmony of colours as well as their application (transparent or non-transparent) are based on Böhme's spiritual ideas. The final chapter of Runge's life as well as of this article is dedicated to the coloured version of the Morning (Der Kleine Morgen) (5). The author shows how the element of the female figure, which strongly suggests Böhme's idea of “Sophiardquo, is central to the painting. In recognition of all the features previously explained, the author provides a holistic interpretation of Runge's life work that includes and goes beyond previous interpretations.


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