c.1475-1528, German painter of religious subjects. His original name was Mathis Gothart Neithart. Grünewald grew up in Würzburg near Nuremberg, and from 1501 until 1521 he was owner of a workshop in Seligenstadt.
Although he used various stylistic elements of three other great German masters (Schongauer, Dürer, and Cranach), he is unique in expressive power.
Grünewald remained relatively unknown until the 20th century. Only about 13 of his paintings and some drawings survive.
He traveled to Alsace and Halle on commissions. He created several altarpieces for two powerful bishops of Mainz, and at his death in Halle he was listed as a painter and designer of waterworks.
Grünewald's earliest work of certain date is the Mocking of Christ of 1503, a linear, energetic and colorful painting in which the blindfolded figure of Christ is beaten by a group of grotesque men. This work incorporates stylistic components that Grünewald employed in his later works includind the dramatic use of silhouette and unusual color, the striking contrast of light with shadowed areas and the exaggeration and distortion of the human form. This array of expressionist devices conveys terror and anguish in terms of powerful images rather than beautiful ones.
The most frequent subject in his few surviving works is the crucifixion of Christ, which he depicted again and again in great detail. His masterpiece is the complex Isenheim Altarpiece of 1515, now at Colmar. It contains a central Crucifixion panel, a figure of the wounded St. Sebastian, the Annunciation, the Resurrection, and a fearsome Temptation of St. Anthony. There is a remarkable individualization of the characters of the drama, but more important are the effects of the light and color and the intense pain expressed in the tortured figures.
Although Grünewald's vision was almost unrelentingly terrible, the Karlsruhe crucifixion, completed in about 1525 and apparently his last work, uses a never seen before heroism and restraint.