1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wohlgemuth, Michael
WOHLGEMUTH, MICHAEL (1434-1519), German painter, was born at Nuremberg in 1434. Little is known of his private life beyond the fact that in 1472 he married the widow of the painter Hans Pleydenwurff, whose son Wilhelm worked as an assistant to his stepfather. The importance of Wohlgemuth as an artist rests, not only on his own individual paintings, but also on the fact that he was the head of a large workshop, in which many different branches of the fine arts were carried on by a great number of pupil-assistants, including Albert Dürer. In this atelier not only large altar-pieces and other sacred paintings were executed, but also elaborate retables in carved wood, consisting of crowded subjects in high relief, richly decorated with gold and colour, such as pleased the rather doubtful Teutonic taste of that time. Wood-engraving was also carried on in the same workshop, the blocks being cut from Wohlgemuth's designs, many of which are remarkable for their vigour and clever adaptation to the special necessities of the technique of woodcutting. Two large and copiously illustrated books have woodcuts supplied by Wohlgemuth and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. The first is the Schatzkammer der wahren Reichthümer des Heils, printed by Koburger in 1491; the other is the Historia mundi, by Schedel, 1493-1494, usually known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, which is highly valued, not for the text, but for its remarkable collection of spirited engravings.
The earliest known work by Wohlgemuth is a retable consisting of four panels, dated 1465, now in the Munich gallery, a decorative work of much beauty. In 1479 he painted the retable of the high altar in the church of St Mary at Zwickau, which still exists, receiving for it the large sum of 1400 gulden. One of his finest and largest works is the great retable painted for the church of the Austin friars at Nuremberg, now moved into the museum; it consists of a great many panels, with figures of those saints whose worship was specially popular at Nuremberg. In 1501 Wohlgemuth was employed to decorate the town hall at Goslar with a large series of paintings; some on the ceiling are on panel, and others on the walls are painted thinly in tempera on canvas. As a portrait-painter he enjoyed much repute, and some of his works of this class are very admirable for their realistic vigour and minute finish. Outside Germany Wohlgemuth's paintings are scarce: the Royal Institution at Liverpool possesses two good examples—“Pilate washing his Hands,” and “The Deposition from the Cross,” parts probably of a large altarpiece. During the last ten years of his life Wohlgemuth appears to have produced little by his own hand. One of his latest paintings is the retable at Schwabach, executed in 1508, the contract for which still exists. He died at Nuremberg in 1519.