Alfred Rethel


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(b Diepenbend, nr. Aachen, 15 May 1816; d Düsseldorf, 1 Dec. 1859).

German painter and printmaker. His biggest work, a cycle of frescos from the life of Charlemagne (Town Hall, Aachen), was once much admired as a great achievement of heroic history painting, but today seems hollow and theatrical. The cycle was begun in 1847 but left unfinished because of the madness that ended Rethel's career in 1853. He is now mainly remembered for his series of wood engravings Another Dance of Death (1849), much in the spirit of Holbein's famous depictions of the subject, but satirizing the revolutionary events of 1848, with Death seen as the embodiment of anarchy. In 1851 he returned to the theme of death, but in a personal rather than political vein, with a pair of prints that were once extremely popular—Death as an Avenger and Death as a Friend.

Subjects: Art.

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