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A group of idealistic Austro-German painters of the early 19th century who believed art should serve a religious or moral purpose and desired to return to the spirit of the Middle Ages. The nucleus of the group was established in 1809 when six students at the Vienna Academy formed an association called the Brotherhood of St Luke (Lukasbrüder), named after the patron saint of painting. The name Nazarenes (first used c.1817) was given to them facetiously because of their devout way of life and adoption of flowing biblical hairstyles. They wished to revive the working environment as well as the spiritual sincerity of the Middle Ages, and lived and worked together in a quasi-monastic fashion. In 1810 Overbeck, Pforr, and two other members moved to Rome, where they occupied the disused monastery of S. Isidoro. Here they were joined by Peter Cornelius and others. One of their aims was the revival of monumental fresco painting and they obtained two important commissions that made their work internationally known (Casa Bartholdy, 1816–17, the paintings are now in the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin; and Casino Massimo, 1817–29, in situ). Stylistically they were much indebted to Perugino, and their work is clear and prettily coloured, but often insipid. In general, modern taste has been more sympathetic towards the Nazarenes' simple and sensitive landscape and portrait drawings than to their ambitious and didactic figure paintings. They broke up as a formal group in the 1820s, but their ideas continued to be influential and the name was applied to younger followers until about 1850. In 1819 Cornelius had moved to Munich, where he attracted a large number of pupils and assistants who in turn carried his style to other German centres. The studio of Overbeck (the only Nazarene to remain permanently in Rome) was a meeting place for artists from many countries (the Russian Ivanov was his friend, for example); Ingres admired him and Ford Madox Brown visited him. William Dyce introduced some of the Nazarene ideals into English art and there is a kinship of spirit with the Pre-Raphaelites.

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