Wackenroder, Wilhelm Heinrich

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Wackenroder, Wilhelm Heinrich (1773-1798): German, Author.

Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder was born in Berlin on July 13, 1773. Despite his father’s desire to see his son become a lawyer, Wackenroder studied art and music with his friend Tieck, Ludwig. Together they attended the University of Erlangen for one semester in 1793. During that time they made several trips to Nürnberg and to the art gallery at the castle in Pommersfelden, where a work attributed to Raphael was housed. Wackenroder also traveled alone to Bamberg, where he witnessed a celebration of a Catholic feast, which event greatly inspired him.

Together, Wackenroder and Tieck produced a collection of essays entitled Herzensergieβungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders (Outpourings of an art-loving Friar), which Tieck published anonymously in 1796. The essays largely provide portraits of various Renaissance artists, with particular emphasis on painters. Among those portrayed, Raphael is extolled as the perfect artist by virtue of his Christian piety, his divine inspiration, and his perceived harmony with the world. A novella comprises the latter part of the book and bears the title, Das merkwürdige Leben des Tonkünstlers Joseph Berlingen (“The Remarkable Life of the Composer Joseph Berlingen”). The novella contains the biography of a fictitious artist who becomes a successful conductor and composer of sacred music. The artist Berlingen becomes disheartened when he perceives that his music is regarded as entertainment rather than spiritual nourishment. The fictitious artist represents the aesthetic ideal of the unity of art and religion that was characteristic of Romanticism. By contrast, Wackenroder criticized Enlightenment artists for denying the religious element in art in favor of their rational approach.

Further Reading:

David Bruce Sanford, Wackenroder and Tieck: the aesthetic breakdown of the Klosterbruder ideal, 1966.

Encyclopedia of German Literature, Vol. 2, 2000.

Sarah Tusa

Lamar University