Bernard Plockhorst, German, 1825-1907
Heinrich Hofmann, German, 1824-1911

Bernard Plockhorst and Heinrich Hofmann were German artists, professors and contemporaries at the German Art School. I have wondered how much they collaborated in their work, whether they ever painted together and whether they were friends.

Neither Plockhorst nor Hofmann are very well-known in Germany, but a set of their illustrations made it to America somehow and became extremely popular in the USA during the late 1800's.

While Europe had been enjoying an Art Renaissance throughout the 1800's, including the rise of the Pre-Raphaelites and tremendous interest in religious art: the United States had made almost no progress in the Arts. Most likely this was due to the intense effort involved with settling the West and laying the railroad, as well as a devastating Civil War and border troubles with Mexico. America was still a very young country and had many problems to overcome. There was little time or money for Art.

But education (including religious education) was a priority. The beautiful illustrations by H&P were welcomed and appreciated in the USA. This lovely collection of images was included in countless books and Bibles. They were all monotone illustrations; printed in black, blue or dark red ink.

The engravings of Plockhorst and Hofmann made a very fine set, which is why I have wondered if they worked together on these illustrations. Between the two of them they illustrated most of the high points of the Life of Christ. Furthermore, the style is so similar that it's very difficult to determine which is Hofmann's work and which is Plockhorst's. (This could be due, in part, to the artist that made the metal engravings.)

Plockhorst and Hofmann arranged Bible scenes in ways that had not been done before. These pleasing new arrangements have been the inspiration for countless artists ever since. Although artists add their own unique style to their Bible illustrations and paintings, they often used arrangements that were similar or even identical to those of Plockhorst and Hofmann.

Artists such as Warner Sallman, Milo Winter, Mariel Wilhoite, Ralph Pallen Coleman, and many other artists who were active in the first half of the 1900's; they all seem to have taken some inspiration from Plockhorst and Hofmann. In fact, I believe the work of Bernard Plockhorst and Heinrich Hofmann set a standard for religious illustration in the USA throughout the 1900's, and continues to influence American artists today.