Heinrich Campendonk - Geburt Christi, St. Kolumba, Köln
Geburt Christi, St. Kolumba, Köln
16-piece glass window 83.5 - 85.5 x 59.7 - 61.6 cm (incl. iron frame), total 372 x 278 cm Framed. Inscribed with the artist's name, the workshop mark, dated and numbered "WILHELM DERIX KAISERSWERTH AM RHEIN 1943 / AUSGEFÜHRT / PROF. H. CAMPENDONK ENTWORFEN / 16" lower right. - Cracks to several of the glass panes.
The “Geburt Christi” was commissioned by the pastor Josef Geller as one of five stained-glass windows for the bomb-damaged eastern wall of the important Romanic church of St Kolumba in Cologne - whose altarpieces, for example, were from the hand of Rogier van der Weyden and are now in Munich's Alte Pinakothek. The stained-glass windows “Geburt Christi” and the “Auferstehung Christi” were the only windows of the sequence that were realised while Campendonk was still alive, during World War II. However, the two windows were never installed, because the church was largely destroyed in 1943. In the late 1940s Gottfried Boehm's chapel of St Mary was built in the ruins; beginning in 2003 it was integrated into the museum building for the Kolumba museum of the archdiocese of Cologne by Peter Zumthor.
As an artistic medium, glass had interested Campendonk since his time with the artists' group “Der blaue Reiter”, and from 1926 onwards, he worked on windows for public and sacred buildings, primarily in the Rhineland, along the lower Rhine and - in his later exile - in Holland. As a student of Johann Thorn Prikker, he was familiar with large-format pictorial solutions in the context of mural and window designs, and in 1921 Campendonk succeeded Prikker in his teaching position at Essen's school of applied arts, where instruction also included stained-glass and mural painting along with mosaic design.
“Schooled through the linear idiom of the woodcut as well as various colour theories, his knowledge of the luminosity of the translucent material, with which he had already experimented in reverse glass paintings, seemed to qualify Campendonk particularly for the new medium” (Christiane Heiser, Thorn Prikker bringt mir viel: Campendonks Weg zum modernen Kirchenfenster, in: exhib. cat. Linnich 2014, op. cit., p. 123).
The Biblical scene of the birth of Christ is arranged in pyramidal form on the picture plane towards the top. While the Madonna-and-child group, with Joseph and the animals, are moved close towards the viewer, the tidings of the birth of the Saviour seem to be brought to the shepherds at a great distance and to draw the Three Magi towards them. Isolated internal elements, such as the facial features, have been painted in rich detail using black stain, however, the three-dimensionally modelled volumes of the figures and the pictorial depth emerge only in the interplay between the individual fields of vibrant colour, unmixed in themselves and divided by the lead cames.
The stained-glass window on offer here presents a thoroughly remarkable and rare artefact - both in artistic terms and in terms of city history.
List of works
Engels 70, with full-page illus. p. 59 (card)
Noted as commission no. 130 in the handwritten workshop record book of Wilhelm Derix
Glasmalereiwerkstatt Wilhelm Derix, Dusseldorf-Kaiserswerth; Private possession, Rhineland; Intermittently kept in the depot of the Deutsches Glasmalerei-Museum in Linnich
Myriam Wierschowski, Also vertrauen wir weiter und schaffen weiter. Eindrucksvolle Briefdokumente zur Fensterverglasung von St. Kolumba in Köln, in: Exhib. cat.: Linnich 2014, Kristalline Welten - Die Glasgemälde Heinrich Campendonks, p. 145 ff.
Bornheim-Walberberg 1980 (Dominikaner-Kloster), the central panel of the window exhibited; Linnich 1996 (Deutsches Glasmalerei-Museum), the central panel of the window exhibited; Linnich 2014 (Deutsches Glasmalerei-Museum), Kristalline Welten - Die Glasgemälde Heinrich Campendonks, cat. no. 10, full-page colour illus. pp. 189-191