In1809 Friedrich Overbeck and Franz Pforr founded the artists’ group called the Brotherhood of St. Luke in Vienna. After its move to Rome in the following year the movement attracted a growing number of artists who later became known as the Nazarenes.

Their works are characterized by idealized figurative depictions in a linear style with restrained local colors. The members of the group strove to realize an ideal of the artist that had already emerged in the early Romantic period – one whose work resulted from deep religious sentiment. They found formal role models in old German painting, the art of Albrecht Dürer and the early Italian Renaissance. Their veneration for those masters went so far that the young artists adopted their dress and hairstyles. Apart from seeking an artistic renewal based on a Christian spirit, their art and lifestyle reflected nationalistpatriotic motivations. They viewed the prevailing Neoclassicism as the aesthetic ideal of the Napoleonic era – a time when German lands were occupied by a foreign – French – power. For the Nazarenes a style harking back to classical antiquity stood in opposition to ‘honest’ German virtues. With their sense of national identity – one that idealized their history – and with the support of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Nazarenes grew in influence in the 1820s and came to dominate the major art academies in Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin for nearly two decades.  The Clemens Sels Museum Neuss owns 163 paintings, watercolors, drawings and print works by Nazarene artists including Peter Cornelius, Gebhard Flatz, Joseph von Führich, Friedrich Overbeck, Franz Pforr, Johann Anton Ramboux, Wilhelm von Schadow, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Eduard von Steinle, Carl Wilhelm Tischbein and Philipp Veit.