Philipp Otto Runge
Philipp Otto Runge was a Romantic
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
painter and draughtsman. He made a late start to his career and died young, nonetheless he is considered among the best German Romantic painters.
Life and work
Runge was born as the 9th of 11 children of a family of shipbuilders in Wolgast
Wolgast is a town in the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the bank of the river Peenestrom, vis-a-vis the island of Usedom that can be accessed by road and railway via a bascule bridge...
, in Western Pomerania, then under Swedish rule. As a sickly child he often missed school and at an early age learned the art of scissor-cut silhouettes from his mother, practised by him throughout his life. In 1795 he began a commercial apprenticeship at his older brother Daniel's firm in Hamburg. In 1799 Daniel supported Runge financially to begin study of painting under Jens Juel
Jens Juel (painter)
Jens Juel was a Danish painter, primarily known for his many portraits, of which the largest collection is on display at Frederiksborg Castle.-Early life and career:...
at the Copenhagen Academy. In 1801 he moved to Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....
to continue his studies, where he met Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning...
, Ludwig Tieck
Johann Ludwig Tieck was a German poet, translator, editor, novelist, writer of Novellen, and critic, who was one of the founding fathers of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.-Early life:...
, and his future wife Pauline Bassenge. He also began extensive study of the writings of the 17th century mystic Jakob Boehme. In 1803, on a visit to Weimar, Runge unexpectedly met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...
and the two formed a friendship based on their common interests in color and art.
In 1804 he married and moved with his wife to Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...
. Due to imminent war dangers (Napoleonic siege of Hamburg
Siege of Hamburg
The city of Hamburg was one of the most powerful fortresses east of the Rhine. After being freed from Napoleonic rule by advancing Cossacks and other following allied troops it was once more occupied by Marshal Davout's French XIII Corps on 28 May 1813, at the height of the campaign for Germany in...
) they relocated in 1805 to his parental home in Wolgast where they remained until 1807. In 1805 Runge's correspondence with Goethe on the subject of his artistic work and color became more intensive. Returning to Hamburg in 1807, he and his brother Daniel formed a new company in which he remained active until the end of his life. In the same year he developed the concept of the color sphere. In 1808 he intensified his work on color, including making disk color mixture experiments. He also published written versions of two local folk fairy tales The fisherman and his wife and The almond tree, later included among the tales of the brothers Grimm
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Children's and Household Tales is a collection of German origin fairy tales first published in 1812 by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Brothers Grimm. The collection is commonly known today as Grimms' Fairy Tales .-Composition:...
. In 1809 Runge completed work on the manuscript of Farben-Kugel (Color sphere), published in 1810 in Hamburg. In the same year, ill with tuberculosis,Runge painted another self-portrait as well as portraits of his family and brother Daniel. The last of his four children was born on the day after Runge's death.
Runge was of a mystical, deeply Christian turn of mind, and in his artistic work he tried to express notions of the harmony of the universe through symbolism of colour, form, and numbers. He considered blue, yellow, and red to be symbolic of the Christian trinity and equated blue with God and the night, red with morning, evening, and Jesus, and yellow with the Holy Spirit (Runge 1841, I, p. 17). He also wrote poetry and to this end he planned a series of four painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...
s called The Times of the Day, designed to be seen in a special building and viewed to the accompaniment of music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...
. This concept was common to romantic artists, who tried to achieve a "total art", or a fusion between all forms of art. In 1803 Runge had large-format engravings made of the drawings of the Times of the Day series that became commercially successful and a set of which he presented to Goethe. He painted two versions of Morning (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), but the others did not advance beyond drawings. "Morning" was the start of a new type of landscape, one of religion and emotion.
Runge was also one of the best German portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...
ists of his period; several examples are in Hamburg. His style was rigid, sharp, and intense, at times almost naïve.
Runge and color
Runge's interest in color was the natural result of his work as a painter and having an enquiring mind. Among his accepted tenets was that "as is known, there are only three colors, yellow, red, and blue" (letter to Goethe of July 3, 1806). His goal was to establish the complete world of colors resulting from mixture of the three, among themselves and together with white and black. In the same lengthy letter Runge discussed in some detail his views on color order and included a sketch of a mixture circle, with the three primary colors forming an equilateral triangle and together with their pair-wise mixtures a hexagon. He arrived at the concept of the color sphere sometime in 1807, as indicated in his letter to Goethe of Nov. 21 of that year, by expanding the hue circle into a sphere, with white and black forming the two opposing poles. A color mixture solid of a double-triangular pyramid had been proposed by Tobias Mayer
Tobias Mayer was a German astronomer famous for his studies of the Moon.He was born at Marbach, in Württemberg, and brought up at Esslingen in poor circumstances. A self-taught mathematician, he had already published two original geometrical works when, in 1746, he entered J.B. Homann's...
in 1758, a fact known to Runge. His expansion of that solid into a sphere appears to have had an idealistic basis rather than one of logical necessity. With his disk color mixture experiments of 1807 he hoped to provide scientific support for the sphere form. Encouraged by Goethe and other friends he wrote in 1808 a manuscript describing the color sphere, published in Hamburg early in 1810. In addition to a description of the color sphere it contains an illustrated essay on rules of color harmony and one on color in nature written by Runge's friend Henrik Steffens
Henrik Steffens , was a Norwegian-born Danish philosopher, scientist, and poet.He was born at Stavanger, Norway. At the age of fourteen he went with his parents to Copenhagen, where he studied theology and natural science...
. An included hand-colored plate shows two different views of the surface of the sphere as well as horizontal and vertical slices showing the organization of its interior (see figure on left). Runge's premature death limited the impact of this work. Goethe who had read the manuscript before publication mentioned it in his Farbenlehre of 1810 as 'successfully concluding this kind of effort." It was soon overshadowed by Michel Eugène Chevreul
Michel Eugène Chevreul
Michel Eugène Chevreul was a French chemist whose work with fatty acids led to early applications in the fields of art and science. He is credited with the discovery of margaric acid and designing an early form of soap made from animal fats and salt...
's hemispherical system of 1839. A spherical color order system was patented in 1900 by Albert Henry Munsell
Albert Henry Munsell
Albert Henry Munsell was an American painter, teacher of art, and the inventor of the Munsell color system.He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, attended and served on the faculty of Massachusetts Normal Art School, and died in nearby Brookline.As a painter, he was noted for seascapes and...
, soon replaced with an irregular form of the solid.
- http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/runge_philippe_otto.html P. O. Runge, the artist
- Works in the Web Gallery of Art
- http://www.archive.org/details/philippottorunge00schmuoft Downloadable text of P. F. Schmidt "Philipp Otto Runge; sein Leben und sein Werk", Leipzig: Insel Verlag 1923]
- http://www.museum.wolgast.de/einrichtungen/rungehaus.html Runge-Haus in Wolgast
- http://www.rolfkuehni.com (Available English translation of "Farben-Kugel" and supporting materials).