Frank Cadogan Cowper’s Vanity & Du Bist Faust Goethe exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Munich, Germany

Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me Anthony King. Today I’ll be taking you on a video and photographic tour of the Du Bist Faust (translated as You Are Faust), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Munich, Germany. I visited this a couple of years ago and it was, without a doubt one of the best art exhibitions. We’re going to take a closer look at 3 incredible oil on canvases including; Frank Cadogan Cowper’s 1907 Vanity. Luis Ricardo Falero’s The departure of the Witches from 1878 and Eduard von Grützner’s Mephisto, from 1872. We’re also going to explore other pieces of great art from the exhibition. Remember to pause the video to read any longer text in full.

Faust, a central figure in a renowned German legend, is grounded in the historical context of Johann Georg Faust, spanning the years 1480–1540. The scholarly Faust attains considerable success yet remains discontent with his existence. Consequently, he enters into a pact with the Devil at a crossroads, bartering his soul for boundless knowledge and earthly delights. Over time, the Faust legend has served as a foundational inspiration for a multitude of literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical creations, each offering distinct interpretations across various epochs. The terms “Faust” and “Faustian” connote the abandonment of spiritual principles in exchange for power, knowledge, or material prosperity.

The initial segment of the tragic play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, titled “Faust: A Tragedy,” stands as a cornerstone in German literature, widely regarded as Goethe’s paramount work. Originally published in 1808, the narrative unfolds with a prologue set in Heaven. Here, the Lord challenges Mephistopheles, a representative of the Devil, wagering that Mephistopheles cannot lead astray Dr. Faust, the Lord’s favored and ambitious scholar.

The exhibition was promoted in the exhibition literature as:

“Since its publication in the early 19th century, the world’s most celebrated work in German literature has fascinated countless artists, challenging them to create their own interpretations on the theme. The exhibition presents over 150 paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographs, music and films by artists from Europe and the US”

(c) Anthony King