Philipp Otto Runge and the Semiotic Language of Nature and Patriotism

The European Legacy 15 (1):15-33 (2010)
Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810) was a leading German Romantic artist whose iconography represents a transition from the Neoclassical iconography of classical mythology and allegory to an abstract semiotic system of signs based on a mystical interpretation of nature. An admirer of Herder's theory of language, Runge's iconography was representative of a trend among Romantic artists to promote nationalism and cultural values through the implementation of formal epistemological systems in the medium of art. Runge's individual iconography reveals a synthesis of rational and mystical systems of knowledge that emphasizes Herder's concept of the German Volk as a unique cultural identity, and presents an analogy between the creation of the cosmos, the organic origins of language, and the conception of the German Volk. Runge's iconography expresses the nationalist sentiments and linguistic theory of Herder that formed the basis of German propaganda movements during the Wars of Liberation, 1807-1815
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