Johann Georg Pinsel is a mystery. Nobody knows where he was born, where he studied or even if Pinsel is his real name. The only thing that is certain is that he could make wood shed blood and tears. Last summer I found myself in the small town of Buchach where Pinsel worked and died. In just ten years, between 1750 and 1760, he created a series of sculptures and carvings of extraordinary drama and complexity. Pinsel’s angels flutter, his saints grieve, his Christ extends his hand to you in mercy.
From 28 October 2016 to 12 February 2017, the Belvedere in Vienna will honor this Baroque master, giving viewers a rare chance to see his work up close. He was active in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv (Lemberg during his lifetime) and decorated many churches in the region with his wood and stone sculptures.
Many art historians compare the power of his work to that of Michelangelo, and the only reason you haven’t heard of Pinsel is because his work came to light fairly recently. Like much of Ukraine, Pinsel’s masterpieces were affected by the terrible events of the 20th century. Just to give you an example: Lviv changed hands no fewer than eight times between 1914 and 1945. Then the Soviets destroyed the churches where Pinsel’s sculptures were housed. It’s a miracle that any of his works have survived.
Wood is a delicate material. It burns. It crumbles. It decays. But looking at Pinsel’s figures, I can’t help feeling that they’re alive and not mere wood. If you have a chance to visit Vienna over the holidays, please don’t miss the exhibit. Perhaps you will fall under the same spell that this mysterious artist cast over me.
The Belvedere Winterpalais
Heavenly! The Baroque Sculptor Johann Georg Pinsel
28 October 2016 to 12 February 2017
For more exhibit information, please see the Belvedere website.
More details via the Belvedere: “This exhibition, which will showcase some thirty exhibits by Pinsel’s hand, is the first to present this important sculptor in Austria. Juxtaposed with works from the Belvedere’s holdings by such Austrian painters of the Late Baroque as Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Paul Troger, and Johann Lucas Kracker, they will unfold a Baroque spectacle of expressive painting and carving in the rooms of the Winterpalais.”
Image via belvedere.at. They have many other striking examples of Pinsel’s work on their website, such as this one.