Adrian Ludwig Richter, Rübezahl Appears to a Mother in the Form of a Charburner (1842)
Like his friend Moritz von Schwind, Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803-1884) rejected the melancholy contemplation of the early Romantics in favor of a more playful, lyrical, imaginary world. Primarily a painter of landscapes, Richter earned his daily bread as a book illustrator, as did many other artists of his generation. In keeping with the Romantics’ admiration of the folk tale, which was held up as a true expression of the naïve and “organic” spirit of pre-modern Germany, Richter cultivated a simple and straightforward style of woodcut engraving. This particular image comes from the 1842 edition of Johann Karl August Musäus’ Volksmärchen der Deutschen [Folk Tales of the Germans], which was originally published in the 1780s. The book’s authenticity was doubted by some nineteenth-century critics who questioned the satirical nature of Musäus’ retellings. It should be remembered, however, that humor, satire, and irony were absolutely central to the Romantic worldview – a point made clear by the writings of some of the best-known Romantics, such as Jean Paul Richter and Clemens Brentano. Wood engraving after a drawing by Adrian Ludwig Richter, 1842.