CORNELIUS, PETER VON German paint er, was born in Dusseldorf on Sept. 27, 1783. His earliest work of importance was the decoration of the choir of the church of St. Quirinus at Neuss. At the age of 26 he produced his designs from Faust. On Oct. 14, 1811, he arrived in Rome, where he soon became one of the most promising of that brotherhood of young German painters which included Overbeck, Schadow, Veit, Schnorr and Ludwig Vogel (1788-1879)—a fraternity (some of whom selected a ruinous convent for their home) who were banded together for resolute study and mutual criticism. Out of this association came the men who, though they were ridiculed at the time, were destined to found a new German school of art.
At Rome Cornelius participated, with other members of the fraternity, in the decoration of the Casa Bartoldi and the villa Massimi. From Rome he was called to Dusseldorf to remodel the academy, and to Munich by the then crown-prince of Bavaria, afterwards Louis I., to direct the decorations for the Glyptothek. On the death of Director Langer (1825), he became director of the Munich academy.
The fresco decorations of the Ludwigskirche, which were for the most part designed and executed by Cornelius, are perhaps the most important mural works of the loth century. Amongst his other great works in Munich may be included his decorations in the Pinakothek and in the Glyptothek. About the year 1839-4o he left Munich for Berlin to proceed with that series of cartoons, from the Apocalypse, for the frescoes for which he had been com missioned by Frederick William IV., and which were intended to decorate the Campo Santo or royal mausoleum. Cornelius and his associates endeavoured to follow in their works the spirit of the Italian painters. But the Italian strain is to a considerable extent modified by the Durer heritage. This Durer influence is manifest in a tendency to overcrowding in composition, in a degree of attenuation in the proportions of, and a poverty of con tour in the nude figure, and also in a leaning to the selection of Gothic forms for draperies. These peculiarities are even notice able in Cornelius's principal work of the "Last Judgment" in the Ludwigskirche in Munich. Karl Hermann was one of Cornelius's earlier and most esteemed scholars, a man of simple and fervent nature, painstaking to the utmost, a very type of the finest Ger man student nature ; Kaulbach and Adam Eberle were also amongst his scholars.
To comprehend and appreciate thoroughly the magnitude of the work which Cornelius accomplished for Germany, it must be remembered that at the beginning of the 19th century Germany had no national school of art and was in painting and sculpture behind all the rest of Europe. Yet in less than half a century Cornelius founded a great school, revived mural painting, and turned the gaze of the art world towards Munich. The German revival of mural painting had its effect upon England, as well as upon other European nations, and led to the famous cartoon competitions held in Westminster hall, and ultimately to the partial decoration of the Houses of Parliament. When the latter work was in contemplation, Cornelius, in response to invitations, visited England (Nov. 1841). He died on March 6, 1867.
See Forster, Peter von Cornelius (1874) ; A. Kuhn, Peter Cornelius and die geistigen Stromungen Seiner Zeit 0920.