Philipp Otto Runge

Philipp Otto Runge (German: [ˈʁʊŋə]; 23 July 1777 – 2 December 1810) was a Romantic German painter and draughtsman. Although he made a late start to his career and died young, he is considered among the best German Romantic painters.

Philipp Otto Runge 005
Self Portrait by Phillipp Otto Runge, at the Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Life and work

Philipp Otto Runge 003
The Hülsenbeck children, oil on canvas

Runge was born as the ninth of eleven children in Wolgast, Western Pomerania, then under Swedish rule, in a family of shipbuilders with ties to the Prussian nobility of Sypniewski / von Runge family. 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 at the Copenhagen Academy. In 1801 he moved to Dresden to continue his studies, where he met Caspar David Friedrich, Ludwig Tieck, 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 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. Due to imminent war dangers (Napoleonic siege of Hamburg) 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.[1] 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. In 1809 Runge completed his work on the manuscript of Farben-Kugel (Color sphere), published in 1810 in Hamburg.[2] 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.[3]

Philipp Otto Runge 001
Der Morgen ("Morning", 1808), oil on canvas

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 paintings called The Times of the Day, designed to be seen in a special building and viewed to the accompaniment of music and poetry. 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 portraitists of his period; several examples are in Hamburg. His style was rigid, sharp, and intense, at times almost naïve.

Runge and color

Runge Farbenkugel
Runge's Farbenkugel (color sphere)

Runge's interest in color was the natural result of his work as a painter and of 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 November 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 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. 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's hemispherical system of 1839. A spherical color order system was patented in 1900 by Albert Henry Munsell, soon replaced with an irregular form of the solid.


  1. ^ Maltzahn, H. 1940, Philipp Otto Runge's Briefwechsel mit Goethe, Weimar: Verlag der Goethe-Gesellschaft.
  2. ^ Runge, P. O. 1810, Die Farben-Kugel, oder Construction des Verhaeltnisses aller Farben zueinander, Hamburg: Perthes.
  3. ^ Runge, P. O. 1840/41, Hinterlassene Schriften', 2. vols., D. Runge, ed., Hamburg: Perthes.'

External links

  • P. O. Runge, the artist
  • Works by Philipp Otto Runge at Open Library
  • "Works by Philipp Otto Runge". (in German).
  • Works in the Web Gallery of Art
  • [1] Downloadable text of P. F. Schmidt "Philipp Otto Runge; sein Leben und sein Werk", Leipzig: Insel Verlag 1923]
  • Runge-Haus in Wolgast
  • Available English translation of "Farben-Kugel" and supporting materials
  • German masters of the nineteenth century: paintings and drawings from the Federal Republic of Germany, a full text exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on Philipp Otto Runge (no. 70-73)
1777 in art

Events from the year 1777 in art.

1806 in art

Events in the year 1806 in art.

1810 in art

Events in the year 1810 in Art.

Anton Graff

Anton Graff (18 November 1736 – 22 June 1813) was an eminent Swiss portrait artist. Among his famous subjects were Friedrich Schiller, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Heinrich von Kleist, Frederick the Great, Friederike Sophie Seyler, Johann Gottfried Herder, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn and Christian Felix Weisse. His pupils included Emma Körner, Philipp Otto Runge and Karl Ludwig Kaaz.

Bo Christian Larsson

Bo Christian Larsson (born 1976 in Kristinehamn, Sweden) is a Swedish artist who works mostly with large-sized drawings, installations, performances and objects. 1994-98 he studied at AKI Academy of Visual Arts in Enschede, Holland. 1997 he was an exchange student at Western Australia's College of Fine Arts in Perth, Australia. 2004-2008 he lived and worked in Munich, Germany, and after that in Hamburg, where he achieved the Philipp Otto Runge Scholarship for one year. Now lives and works in Älvkarhed, Sweden and Berlin, Germany.

Erwin Speckter

Erwin Speckter (18 July 1806, Hamburg - 23 November 1835, Hamburg) was a German painter, often associated with the Nazarene movement.

Ferdinand Olivier

Johann Heinrich Ferdinand Olivier (1785–1841) was a German painter associated with the Nazarene movement.

Frustberg House

The Frustberg House, also known as the Tiefbrunn House, is a former property and a baroque brick manor house at Frustberg in the Hamburg borough of Groß Borstel. The property became a summer residence for wealthy Hamburg citizens from 1651. The current house was built in the early 18th century by the cloth merchant Eybert Tiefbrunn, and his coat of arms is still found over the main entrance door, with the year 1703 inscribed. The building is a rare example of a baroque brick building from the era. In the 19th century, the property included an estate of 605 hectare (6050 decare) land, and the manor house was surrounded by 7 hectare (70 decare) park.

From 1793 to 1823, the manor house was owned by the Berenberg/Gossler banking family and was well known as a meeting place of Hamburg high society with many famous regular guests such as Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and Philipp Otto Runge. It served as the summer residence of Elisabeth Gossler née Berenberg, the matriarch of the family. Her, at that time deceased, husband was Johann Hinrich Gossler, a great-grandson of Eybert Tiefbrunn, for whom the house was built a century earlier.

In 1823, the Gossler family sold the property to Wilhelm Schröder, who was married to Salomon Heine's eldest daughter Fanny. Their grandson Otto Nanne owned the property from 1872 to 1906, when he sold it to the factory owner August Herbst. Due to financial difficulties, Herbst sold the property to the Hamburg government in 1928–29. Since 1937, the manor house has been listed as a cultural heritage site. The park had by 1957 been reduced to 4800 m². The manor house is traditionally known as the Frustberg House. The house was officially given the name Stavenhagenhaus in honour of the poet Fritz Stavenhagen in 1962, with a ceremony presided over by Helmut Schmidt. However, Stavenhagen has no association with the house's history and the building is also referred to as the Frustberg House or as the Tiefbrunn House. The name Gossler House has also been used. The building is used for cultural events such as concerts.

Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums

The Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums (translation: Academic School of the Johanneum, short: Johanneum) is a Gymnasium (or Grammar School ) in Hamburg, Germany. It is Hamburg's oldest school and was founded in 1529 by Johannes Bugenhagen. The school´s focus is on the teaching of Latin and ancient Greek. It is proud of having educated some of Germany's political leaders as well as some of Germany's notable scientists. The school is operated and financed by the city of Hamburg.

German Romanticism

German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature and criticism. Compared to English Romanticism, the German variety developed relatively late, and, in the early years, coincided with Weimar Classicism (1772–1805). In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety of Romanticism notably valued wit, humour, and beauty.

The early period, roughly 1797 to 1802, is referred to as Frühromantik or Jena Romanticism. The philosophers and writers central to the movement were Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder (1773–1798), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829), August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845), Ludwig Tieck (1773–1853), and Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) (1772–1801).The early German romantics strove to create a new synthesis of art, philosophy, and science, by viewing the Middle Ages as a simpler period of integrated culture; however, the German romantics became aware of the tenuousness of the cultural unity they sought. Late-stage German Romanticism emphasized the tension between the daily world and the irrational and supernatural projections of creative genius. In particular, the critic Heinrich Heine criticized the tendency of the early German romantics to look to the medieval past for a model of unity in art and society.

Gustav Pauli

Theodor Gustav Pauli (usually Gustav Pauli) (2 February 1866, Bremen – 8 July 1938, Munich) was a German art historian and museum director in Bremen and Hamburg.

Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten

Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten (1 February 1758 – 26 October 1818), also known as Ludwig Theobul or Ludwig Theoboul, was a German poet and Lutheran preacher.

Kosegarten was born in Grevesmühlen, in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. After studying theology at the University of Greifswald, he served as the pastor of Altenkirchen on the island of Rügen, then part of Swedish Pomerania.

After his ordination in 1792 he was given the rectorate in the parish church of Altenkirchen on Rügen. In this capacity he gave the famous shore sermons on the cliffs near Vitt. He went there to the herring fishermen, who during the time of herring fishing could not go to the church in Altenkirchen due to their work. These sermons were a great success, which is why the Vitt Chapel was erected in 1806. During his stay on Rügen he wrote many reports about the island, that made both Rügen and Kosegarten famous.

Kosegarten's books were burned at the Wartburg festival on 18 October 1817. He influenced the work of Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, and the music of Franz Schubert.

Remarks on Colour

Remarks on Colour (German: Bemerkungen über die Farben) was one of Ludwig Wittgenstein's last works, written during a visit to Vienna in 1950 while dying of cancer. Believing that philosophical puzzles about colour can only be resolved through attention to the involved language games, he considers Goethe's propositions in the Theory of Colours, and the observations of Philipp Otto Runge in an attempt to clarify the use of language about colour.

Wittgenstein was interested in the fact that some propositions about colour are apparently neither empirical nor exactly a priori, but something in between: phenomenology, according to Goethe. However, he took the line that 'There is no such thing as phenomenology, though there are phenomenological problems.' He was content to regard Goethe's observations as a kind of logic or geometry. Wittgenstein took his examples from the Runge letter included in the "Farbenlehre", e.g. "White is the lightest colour", "There cannot be a transparent white", "There cannot be a reddish green", and so on. The logical status of these propositions in Wittgenstein's investigation, including their relation to physics, was discussed in Jonathan Westphal's Colour: a Philosophical Introduction (1991).

Although Remarks on Colour is considered difficult on account of its fragmentation, his last work, On Certainty (German: Über Gewissheit) is considered to be his most lucid.

Stephen Mueller

Stephen Mueller (September 24, 1947 in Norfolk, Virginia – September 16, 2011 in New York City, New York) was an American painter whose color field and Lyrical Abstraction canvases took a turn towards pop. He earned his B.F.A. in painting from the University of Texas, Austin in 1969 and his M.F.A. at Bennington College in 1971 where the influence of Clement Greenberg and the color field school ran high; although he used that style as a stepping off point while incorporating many different spiritual symbols and motifs, so as not to remain entirely abstract.

As stated in the Brooklyn Rail: "Islamic art, Indian miniature painting, Mexican ceramics, Tantra painting, the color theory of Philipp Otto Runge, the spiritual aura found in German Romanticism, music, textile design, and a profound knowledge of Eastern philosophy all contributed to shaping his vision. After abandoning gestural abstraction in the late 1980s, and with it a focus on earth tones, Stephen turned to color wholeheartedly. By the early 1990s, his palette was saturated with bright hues. It is one of the artist’s striking achievements that his work, despite all spectral indulgence, never seems flat."In 2003 a retrospective of his work was held at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Mueller died of lung cancer on September 16, 2011, he was 63.

Mueller's work is held in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston among other venues.

The Juniper Tree (fairy tale)

"The Juniper Tree" is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. In some English language editions the story is called The Almond Tree. The text in the Grimm collection is in Low German and was originally written down by the painter Philipp Otto Runge.

It was believed until the early 1870s that the Brothers Grimm re-adapted various oral recountings and fables heard from local peasants and townspeople in order to write their well-known fairy tales. However, various critics including Vanessa Joosen argue that this assumption is false, based on an overwhelming amount of disputing evidence. Literary critic Walter Scherf, argued that the Grimm brothers were inspired by the painter Philipp Otto Runge's original adaptation of The Juniper Tree, originally written as The Almond Tree. The Grimms themselves wrote in the appendix to the 1812 first edition of the KHM that the text was supplied by Philipp Otto Runge.

The story contains themes of child abuse, murder, cannibalism and biblical symbolism and is one of the Brothers Grimm's darker and more mature fairy tales.

The Juniper Tree is tale number 47 and Aarne–Thompson type 720: "my mother slew me, my father ate me". Another such tale is the English The Rose-Tree, although it reverses the sexes from The Juniper Tree; The Juniper Tree follows the more common pattern of having the dead child be the boy.

Theory of Colours

Theory of Colours (German: Zur Farbenlehre) is a book by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about the poet's views on the nature of colours and how these are perceived by humans. It was published in German in 1810 and in English in 1840. The book contains detailed descriptions of phenomena such as coloured shadows, refraction, and chromatic aberration.

The work originated in Goethe's occupation with painting and mainly exerted an influence on the arts (Philipp Otto Runge, J. M. W. Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, Wassily Kandinsky). The book is a successor to two short essays entitled "Contributions to Optics".

Although Goethe's work was rejected by physicists, a number of philosophers and physicists have concerned themselves with it, including Thomas Johann Seebeck, Arthur Schopenhauer (see: On Vision and Colors), Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Steiner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Mitchell Feigenbaum.

Goethe's book provides a catalogue of how colour is perceived in a wide variety of circumstances, and considers Isaac Newton's observations to be special cases. Unlike Newton, Goethe's concern was not so much with the analytic treatment of colour, as with the qualities of how phenomena are perceived. Philosophers have come to understand the distinction between the optical spectrum, as observed by Newton, and the phenomenon of human colour perception as presented by Goethe—a subject analyzed at length by Wittgenstein in his comments on Goethe's theory in Remarks on Colour.


For people with the surname, see Wolgast (surname).

Wolgast (German pronunciation: [ˈvɔlɡast]) is a town in the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the bank of the river (or strait) Peenestrom, vis-a-vis the island of Usedom on the Baltic coast that can be accessed by road and railway via a movable bascule bridge (Blaues Wunder). In December 2004, the town had a population of 12,725.

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