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Art and the Thirty Years War

Posted By Susan Maxwell, Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

In his Teutsche Academie der Edlen Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste (1675), the German artist Joachim von Sandrart lamented that the ravages of war had forced German artists to "let fall their pallets and instead of the paint brush, take up the pike or beggar's staff." Published twenty-seven years after the Peace of Westphalia, Sandrart's assessment has become the accepted narrative for the fate of art made during the Thirty Years' War.  Doubtless, by the war's end, countless central European palaces, churches and entire cities had been laid to waste, along with the paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and objects that they contained. Yet, many artists continued to work throughout the war, some of them in spite of it and some of them in response to it.

Peter Paul Rubens' famous anti-war Allegory of the Outbreak of War (1638) takes up the cultural devastation that the war was bringing to Europe while Jacques Callot's series The Miseries of War (1633), provides one of the few direct, albeit ambiguous, responses. George de la Tour does not deal with the war itself, yet his images of beggars and itinerant soldiers provide a glimpse into the societal upheaval taking place in Lorraine, a territory hit especially hard by continued fighting. And while armed conflict devastated central Europe, artists continued to function, either in response to or despite dire circumstances.

This session seeks to examine the varying roles that art and artists played in times of violent upheaval. Papers might consider how artists responded to armed conflicts, what sorts of hardships they endured, how they adjusted their strategies of making, how printmaking figured into issues of propaganda or whether it reflects a scarcity of resources, how patrons or the public responded to destruction and looting, the displacement of artists, such as Sandrart himself, or what sorts of strategies they used to find employment. The armed conflicts of the early modern period clearly had a disastrous effect on the arts, but this session seeks to reevaluate the many ways that art and artists survived, responded to, and even flourished during times of extreme crisis.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 150 words and a short one-page c.v. by Wednesday, May 20, 2016, to:

Susan Maxwell




Tags:  art history  Rubens  Sandrart  Teutsche Akademie  thirty years war 

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