Battle on Canvas

(Schlacht am Bild)

GDR, 1988, 21 min, color
In German; no subtitles
Music (Score)


In 1987, after over ten years of work, Werner Tübke (1929-2004), one of East Germany’s most important painters, completed the monumental, oil-on-canvas painting The Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany. Painted in the Renaissance styles of Albrecht Dürer and Albrecht Altdorfer, the painting—measuring 14 meters high and 123 meters wide—is in the Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen, Thuringia, the site of the last battle of the German Peasants’ War. The museum was specifically built for the painting, one of the most figurative in recent art history.Interspersed with interviews with the artist, the documentary follows the complicated and elaborate creation of the monumental work, from signing the contract in 1976 to the last brush stroke on September 11, 1987. In 2011, the Panorama Museum was awarded the European Seal of Cultural Heritage.

Press comments

“Although it was commissioned by the state, the panorama painting did not become a celebration of the heroic Peasants’ Revolt against the oppressive Junker rule of the 16th century.  If it does anything, it glorifies a defeat. In 1525 the rebellious peasants, led by reformer Thomas Müntzer, were crushingly defeated by an army of mercenary soldiers. The Panorama is a monumental and apocalyptic world theater—of life and death, war and torture, faith and reformation. Moving between Brueghel-like genre pictures and portraits of prominent contemporaries, including Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach and Martin Luther, Tübke intertwines several memento mori together—a jubilant death with an hour glass, or repetitions of a mockingly observant harlequin.”     –Christina Tilmann, Der Tagesspiegel



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