The Colour Green
Baldung’s nickname “Grien” originates from the adjective grün (German for “green”). Several historical records, including a travel journal kept by Albrecht Dürer, refer to “Grünhanssen” and “Hans Grun”.
Hans Baldung is said to have acquired the nickname “Grien” while he worked in Albrecht Dürer’s workshop in Nuremberg. Possible reasons for this are:
- Two other contemporary artists named Hans, Hans Kulmbach and Hans Schäufelin, were active at Dürer’s workshop at the same time. This nickname was a way of distinguishing between them.
- Baldung was inclined to wear green attire for festive celebrations.
- Baldung followed the convention of German Renaissance artists who applied vivid colour to their drawing paper. Baldung’s Self-Portrait of Youth, for example, is on green paper.
- It is unlikely that the nickname “Grien” implies “green behind the ears”, since Baldung was probably not the most junior of Dürer’s apprentices.
- Baldung used to sign his works with his initials and a (spring green) vine-leaf – perhaps a humorous play on his nickname. His monogram, “HBG”, includes the initial letters of his first name and surname (“HB”), and an extra G for Grien.
50 Shades of Green
The Karlsruhe Sketchbook comprises more than 100 drawings by Hans Baldung Grien, some of them with colour indications, especially for various shades of green:
- grien = green
- gel-grien = yellow-green
- gelgrie = yellow-green
- schögrie = fine green
- grogrie = grey-green
- schwitzergrie = Swiss green
- jegergrie = hunter’s green
- dunkel grien = dark grien
On this drawing of an exotic bird, for example, the head was to be coloured green, as evidenced by the word “grien” written by the artist.