The Painter Franz Pforr, 1819/1865


Practicing art as a religion, religion as a form of life and friendship as a sacrament. This motto of the artist community "Brothers of St. Luke" ("Lukasbund") becomes as true as nowhere else as in the net of "friendship paintings" and their respective texts with which Friedrich Overbeck and Franz Pforr (1788 - 1812) from Frankfurt lifted their early artistic comradeship to a level above personal relationships.

They had met at the Vienna Academy in 1806 and united in their endeavour to bring back to art other themes than the rigid classicist motives that were taught at the time in Vienna. Thus, they chose St. Luke as the patron name for their newly founded community. Shortly after, their views were rejected at the academy and they moved to Rome to study the art of their artistic idols. When Pforr died two years later, Friedrich Overbeck was grief-stricken. For him, it became the centerpoint of the foundation myth of the "Nazarenes" (as they had been called in Rome because of their long christ-like hair) to keep his memory alive.

The painting above was created soon after they had moved to the San Isidoro cloister on the Monte Pincio in Rome where they had wanted to live only for the sake of creating their art in pious togetherness. Overbeck presents his friend in old German clothings in front of a gothic window with grapevines. The skull and the cross are his signum since his Vienna days. As Overbeck stated, the idea was to project a situation where Pforr would have felt most comfortable. Many of the details sprung from a text called "Dream of the Future" ("Zukunftstraum") that Pforr had written. He and Overbeck had two ideal painter figures together with two ideal brides, the tender blonde "German" Maria and the more Italian-like majestic Sulamith (both represented in Pforrs small Diptychon "Sulamith and Maria").

The historising composition intersects times and spaces. In the background, a gothic German city can be seen at the shores of the Italian coast - similar mergings can be found in the works of Schinkel. Overbeck had not yet followed his later idol Raphael. The deeply serious expression, the modest composure as well as dispensing with light and modellization reflects the patterns of the old German masters (which may have been Pforrs own patterns as well).