The Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg (German : Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg) was founded in 1662 by Jacob von Sandrart and is the oldest art academy in German-speaking Central Europe.
That’s fine what wikipedia says in its article (Ger., Eng.), but how did they do it ? Did some blokes scramble in the seedy back-room of the Bratwurschtglöckla (Gartenlaube), knock back a few pints and finally say : “Yoh, we are ready for academy now !” ? That is basically what happened, except that the Akademie resided first in a private dwelling ; the beginnings are called “humble”, and it may have been a bit more complicated as the above cited sentence indicates. So says Ludwig GROTE (Ger.) whom I follow on this. *
An “Akademie” (Eng.) can be founded – even today – by anybody. It is not a university. Universities were founded by rulers or states that took good (more or less) care for the financial basis, payment for professors, housing for students, equipment (library !) etc.etc.pp., and in turn expected that the university would produce for example jurists for the dukedom’s administration or theologians for the territorial church. An Akademie can have another subject, the arts, natural science or trade ; it is not necessarily a place where students are educated, so young members of the Nuremberg Akademie were expected to have learned their profession as painters from a master before they enter the institution. And the Institut was open for interested laymen too, they may be exercising an art themselves as dilettantes or they may be potential buyers of art.
The Akademie was founded by the copperplate engraver Jacob von SANDRART (Ger., Eng., ADB) (1630-1708), the city council member Joachim NÜTZEL von Sündersbühl (1629-1671), and the architect Elias von GEDELER (no information found, 1620-1693). NÜTZEL was there for official reasons : The city council had even in the late seventeenth century a problem with citizens coming together in unsupervised groups, too often – at least for the authority’s taste – from such gatherings unrest, even rebellion, had started.
GEDELER (or GÖDELER) was an Exilant / expatriate from Upper-Austria, and Jacob was the nephew of the painter Joachim von SANDRART (Ger., Eng.), who – according to GROTE – was the driving force behind the founding of the Akademie.
After the initial push business became a bit slow, what changed 12 years later when Joachim finally settled in Nuremberg (1674) – and promptly became president of the society. He chose as assistants a man called EIMMERT, the brother-in-law of Jacob, and a man called AUER, Jacob’s son-in-law – the whole thing at this time was clearly an affaire of the SANDRART family. Also the artists who had migrated to Nuremberg in the fifteen years between the end of the Thirty-Years-War (1648) and the formation of the Akademie (1662) were all connected in one way or another to Joachim, either they were members of his family, or disciples & admirers.
Joachim von SANDRART (1606-14.X.1688) was not for the first time in Nuremberg. When the large congress or conference that marked the official end of the Thirty-Years-War took place in Nuremberg 1648, he was called in by Carl Gustav von Zweibrücken (Ger., Eng.) (1622-1660), Generalissimus and future king of Sweden – to portrait the attendees. SANDRART was the society painter of his age, who ever was something special needed a portrait by him. Carl Gustav threw honours at him, people queued in front of his painting room. And boy was he quick: He did one or, in a good mood, two portraits a day – earning tons of money, medals, titles … a Malerfürst, polyglot, with aplomb and self-consciousness.
An earlier try to found an Akademie in Augsburg faltered, but Joachim in his long career had contact to nearly any such undertaking, knew notably the Accademia della Crusca (Ger., Eng.) in Firenze. In Nuremberg the “academic idea” was already present : different circles existed since the days of the humanists like CELTIS & PIRCKHEIMER, there was a philological circle around HESSE & CAMERARIUS, a collegium medicum, the Pegnesische Blumenorden, an alchemical society with young LEIBNIZ as secretary (shortly !).
SANDRART wrote about his ideal, and of course the title of his magnum opus is “Teutsche Academie“.
In the centre is for him the informal meeting of artists, mainly to draw together from nature, nude drawing, and above this – following the Renaissance ideal – the engagement with anatomy, perspective, proportion theory, architecture, mythology et al. That is what he had learned to know notably in Italy, in Venezia, Bologna and of course Rome, where such private circles existed and where he met men like LORRAIN and POUSSIN.
What we can see here is that artists who had learned not only to draw but had educated themselves following a program, separate themselves from the “gemeine Maler”, the run-of-the-mill Pinselquäler, brush-tormenter. It is a sociological process that finds its expression in Emperor Rudolf II. granting the “Malerzeche” of Prague the right to call their “Handwerk”, their craft, “Malkunst” in 1596. They are allowed to have their own guild, the emblem is Minerva.
SANDRART btw is the first who in his “Teutsche Academie” gives not only a theory of art, a program for artists, but who collects biographies of artists as well, most notably GRÜNEWALD. He saw DÜRER as his predecessor and payed tribute to the great man by renovating his grave by own means.
SANDRARTs classical ideal is expressed by LESSING in one sentence : “Der Pinsel des Malers soll in Verstand getunkt sein.”
The painter’s brush should be tipped in sense / wit / intellect.
He said it himself a bit more elaborate :
“Es vermeinen etliche unsererer Teutschen, auch theils alte Künstler, es sei ihnen rühmlich und fördere zu großem Namen, wenn sie große wilde Fantasten sind und durch verkehrtes Leben wilde Würmer im Kopf erzeugen. Womit sie nur ihre törichte Einfalt zeigen und daß ihnen an Vernunft und Weisheit gar viel abgeht.”
Some artists, even old ones, believe they will win fame and get a big name by being phantasts and creating wild worms in their heads. They only show their simplicity and lack of reason and sapience.
But sometimes “wild worms” are necessary.
* GROTE, Ludwig: Joachim von Sandrart und Nürnberg, in: GROTE, Ludwig: Von Dürer bis Gropius. Aufsätze zur deutschen Kunst, zusammengestellt von Wulf SCHADENDORF, Nürnberg 1975 (Bibliothek des Germanischen Nationalmuseums Nürnberg zur deutschen Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte, 35), S.57-68.
Zuerst 1962 als Festvortrag aus Anlaß der 300-Jahrfeier der Akademie der bildenden Künste in Nürnberg am 20. Juni 1962.
Ausführlich in: Barock in Nürnberg. 1600-1750. Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 1962, S.10-21.