The painter and professor Bernhard Plockhorst was born in 1825
in the Hanoverian duchy of Braunschweig (Brunswick) in modern day
central germany. He studied painting techniques while in Paris
and Munich. One of his earliest paintings comes from this time,
an 1857 portrait of Franz Liszt, the famous Hungarian composer and
pianist. His religious artwork achieved popularity through
reprints in illustrated Bibles of the 1890's. The Weimar Art School
made him a professor and there he remained until his death in
1907. He did not live to see the art school become the Bauhaus,
Braunschweig become incorporated into the Weimar Republic (in 1919), or
the world spin into the chaos of World War I.
His paintings of Jesus Christ depict a northern
European-appearing man with light brown hair and a fair
complexion. This was a common rendering of Jesus by artists of
the time. Only in more modern works do artists sometimes picture
Christ with Middle Eastern features.
Plockhorst also utilized Christian symbolism in his work.
A flock of white sheep includes a black sheep which represents someone
once lost and, like the prodigal son, now returned to follow the
A palm frond held by a child in a painting is a
presentiment of the joyous entry of Christ into Jerusalem to be
crucified days later. A black hellebore or 'Christmas rose'
clutched in the hand of the baby Jesus hints at an old legend about a
gift a girl presented Him at His nativity. Jesus is painted
sometimes with and sometimes without a nimbus, a halo that signifies
Among Plockhorst's works still available today as prints are
'Apparition of the Angels to the Shepherds', 'Mary's Choice', 'Jesus
Blessing the Children', 'The Good Shepherd', 'Christ's Entrance Into
Jerusalem', 'Jesus Appears to Mary', 'Mater Dolorosa' or 'The Veiling
Nun', and 'Schutzengel' or 'Guardian Angel'. While he did not
achieve the lasting popularity of other artists of his day, his artwork
contributed to the rise of the illustrated family Bible.