The Symbolist Art of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach was a German Symbolist painter and radical social reformer. He attended the Munich Academy of Art and was deeply inspired by the works of fellow symbolist Swiss painter Arnold Bocklin.

Diefenbach was a natural medicine practitioner living a nature-centered existence and mainly vegetarian, an oddity at this time. Diefenbach is a champion of reform of life, as the pioneer of naturism and the peace movement. His commune “Himmelhof” in Ober St. Veit (1897-1899) was one of the models for the students of his Gusto Graser reform founded settlements Monte Verita in Ascona. As a painter he is an independent representative of Art Nouveau and Symbolism. Diefenbach was a son of the painter and art teacher at the high school Hadamar Leonhard Diefenbach.

His lifestyle rejected many social norms of the age including religion, which among other issues forced him for a time to flee to Egypt. This relocation saw his work focus of the ancient ruins and temples of that land.

He spent his later years on the Island of Capri painting the rocky coast. Diefenbach’s life was as storied as his work and both paint a dramatic and original landscape. Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach was a major influence on the life and work of Hugo Höppener (Fidus).

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