This fairy tale piece was the result of an artists’ contest between Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Clemens Brentano. Carl Gropius, one of the guests at a certain soirée in Schinkel’s house reports: “The question arose as to the difficulty of expressing in a drawing what could be so easily achieved through poetry. Schinkel refuted this and Brentano wanted to prove that he could easily improvise a narrative on the spot that Schinkel would by no stretch of the imagination be able to keep up with or adequately express through drawing. After much discussion to and fro, and after the length of any such narrative had been agreed, it was decided — to the company’s loud delight — that the two should be put to the test. Brentano spoke and Schinkel drew.” Brentano’s story was about an old castle-like hunting lodge in which a head forester, now dead, had once lived. Because the ground was so rocky, he was buried on the other bank of the river. And now a deer could safely come into the grounds of the deserted castle. Schinkel’s painting perfectly conveyed the complicated structure of Brentano’s narrative. As in the narrative, there are various layers of meaning in the painting with the symbols of a religious-Romantic worldview in the crucifix, church, burial, dove, wine, and children. But the transience of all things earthly as well as the idea of nature reclaiming the world also find formal expression in this painting which the art collector Consul Wagener commissioned from Schinkel on the basis of two drawings he made during the contest.


  • Title: Castle by the River
  • Creator: Karl Friedrich Schinkel
  • Date Created: 1820
  • Physical Dimensions: w94.0 x h70.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: W.S. 201
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Karl Friedrich Schinkel was the foremost Prussian architect, city planner and a painter. From 1772 to 1800 he studied architecture under Friedrich Gilly and his father in Berlin. After a journey to Italy, he began work as an independent painter in 1805. In 1816 he created the scenery for Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, including the stage for the Queen of the Night scene, adorned with stars, which has since become iconic. Despite such successes, he decided to devote himself to architecture. He became famous as one of the most prominent German architects and created Neoclassical as well as Neo-Gothic buildings, mainly in Berlin and surrounding towns. Well known landmarks of his making include the Berlin Altes Museum on Museum Island, the Neue Wache (1816–18) and the Schauspielhaus (1819–21) at Gendarmenmarkt. In 1826 he also produced the plans for Charlottenhof Palace and St. Nikolaikirche, both in Potsdam. His style stands out for its pronounced Greek influence, while in his later years he applied Neo-Gothic elements such as can be seen in the brickwork of Friedrichswerder Church (1824–31).
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Neuruppin, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1781-03-13/1841-10-09

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