Hans Kratzer (German, b. 1874)

Cardinal in his Study


Hans Kratzer (German, b. 1874), Cardinal in his Study, oil on canvas, signed lower right, 20″ x 31″

Hans Kratzer was part of a small group of 19th century Continental European artists who opened the doors to the Church’s secret chambers and exposed the clerics’ human side. This short-lived genre of  “Cardinal Paintings” reflected the new challenges to the Catholic Church prevalent during the latter part of the century. No longer were cardinals, bishops, priests, and monks looked upon with complete awe and reverence. For the first time the public could relate to their clergymen, enlightened by the fact that men of God also enjoyed activities unassociated with religion.  Jehan-Georges Vibert (1840-1902) was one the leaders of this movement and made famous the vibrant red color often used to paint the clerics’ robes. Building up such rich, deep hues requires layer upon layer of oil paint, each of which must dry before a new one is added. Over several days, Vibert created a tone so distinctive it is still called “Vibert’s red.” (source: the obituary “Vibert the Artist, Dead,” The New York Times, July 29, 1902.)

“…Vibert was part of the growing democratization of Europe in which the artists and writers of the time were exposing the fraud and pomposity of big government and a hypocritical clergy that talked about walking in the shoes of the fisherman, and giving for god all worldly goods, while they themselves lived in the height of opulence and luxury in great mansions with servants waiting on their every whim.”