Left to itself German art tends to the spikey and expressive, and all that, by the standards of classicism, is eccentric. In its opulence it is over-wrought to the point of happy vulgarity, redeeming itself at (or after) the last moment by refinement beyond the scope of normal human talent or patience. There is no style more opulent or more eccentric than that of the German Rococo and no German artist more fabulously opulent and elegantly eccentric than Johann Georg Platzer (1702-1760). A contemporary of Boucher, he specialized in rich small mythological or gallant scenes painted in a style utterly oblivious to the Age of Reason. His could be called either a highly original style or a most originally eclectic style. If its basic components are a distilled version of Italian and Parisian tendencies of the early eighteenth century, much else turns up in Platzer's style: Rubens, the Dutch, and—something quite unusual though especially fitting to his personality—the ripe Mannerism of the late sixteenth century.One of the great groups of Platzer's is in Minneapolis and from it, this year and last, two Seasons
have been given, the Spring
They might be called the Pleasures of the Seasons
for it is these which are represented in the most picturesque and ornate ways. Painted on small copper panels in rich, enamel-like colors, they seem as if scenes from a semi-precious theater. The elaborate style is utterly fanciful and artificial. Notice how in the gala Spring
the flowers in the foreground could as well be works of jewelry as products of bountiful if sloppy nature. The persons are no more real than the statuary: They are genial types,
a happy child, a noble old couple, pairs of lovers, wandering minstrels. They are all in fancy dress, the costumes of past generations or of dancers. In Winter
there is indeed contemporary dress, but it is the dress of an ideal and imaginary high-life, just as the furniture is too good to be true (if faintly German). The dashing high spirits of these scenes are finally characterized by the Old Masters on the walls: a completely dizzy Rape of Lucretia, c. 1580, and a smirking portrait of someone very like poor old Mary Tudor.Technically of the greatest brilliance, these paintings, indeed, are semi-precious. And one can think of no paintings of more ripe and more stunning elegance.Endnotes
Referenced Works of Art
- Gift of Mrs. Walter Ude. Ex coll. the Counts Maltzan, Schloss Militsch, Silesia. The full set on gracious loan to the Institute, consists of the two other Seasons (of which the Autumn is signed) and a smaller pair on silver panels of Latona (monogrammed) and Diana and Acteon.
- Johann Georg Platzer, Austrian, 1702-1760. Winter. Oil on copper, 14 1/4” x 21”. Gift of Mrs. Walter Ude, 1962, 62.7.
- Johann Georg Platzer, Austrian, 1702-1760. Spring. Oil on copper, 14 1/4” x 21”. Gift of Mrs. Walter Ude, 1962, 62.7.