Schwäbisch Gmünd 1484–1545 Strasbourg
Hans Baldung, eventually known as Hans Baldung Grien, is one of a small group of German Renaissance artists to establish himself as a master of international repute, along with Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), Albrecht Altdorfer (1480–1538) and Mattias Grünewald (1470–1528). Trained in Strasbourg, Baldung entered the workshop of Dürer around 1503 and most likely took charge of the Nuremberg studio during Dürer’s second sojourn in Italy between 1505-07. The two artists remained close collaborators and friends until Dürer’s death, after which he left Baldung a lock of hair as a gift. After working on a major commission in Freiburg im Breisgau between 1512-17, Baldung settled back in Strasbourg where he remained until his death, taking commissions from both Catholic and Protestant patrons as the Reformation erupted.
Baldung’s sensual Madonnas, lustful witches and macabre scenes show a bizarre originality unmatched in Renaissance Europe. The erotic quality of his works sometimes verges on pornographic, notably in his drawings, and on some level reflects his ambivalent, if not tortured, fascination with female sexuality as well as an interest in witchcraft. Baldung’s compositions are arguably bolder and more inventive than those of courtlier contemporaries such as Lucas Cranach the Elder. In 1936, Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), included Baldung's mysterious Bewitched Groom and the Witches’ Sabbath in his landmark exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, which placed the Dada and Surrealist movement in the context of 'certain of its pioneers'—the fantastic and marvelous in European art of the past five centuries. Like Dürer, Baldung’s artistic contribution went beyond that of a painter; he has a particular significance as the inventor of the chiaroscuro woodcut but was also a draughtsman and printmaker of the highest order.
Top Auction Results for Hans Baldung Grien
The Holy Family with Five Angels
Sold for £2,860,000 ($3,781,568)
London, Sotheby’s, 4 July 2018, Old Masters Evening Sale, lot 10
Head of a Man, in Profile to the Left
Sold for $3,712,000
New York, Christie’s, 25 January 2007, Old Master and 19th Century Drawings, lot 6
The Virgin as Queen of Heaven Suckling the Infant Christ
Sold for £2,113,250 ($3,296,287)
London, Sotheby’s, 4 July 2012, Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale, lot 6