Goethe

‘The Japanese’ by Hans Makart, 1870–75

How do artists vanish?

23 September 2017 9:00 am

Here’s an intriguing thought experiment: could Damien Hirst disappear? By that I mean not the 52-year-old artist himself — that…

‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’, 12th century, from St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt. (This image and one below from Chromaphilia, by Stella Paul). akg-images/Erich Lessing

Moody blues (and pinks and greens): how colour influences our emotions

18 March 2017 9:00 am

When Australia imposed generic packaging in its war on cigarettes, there was consumer research into the most deterrent colour. Pantone…

Books aren’t medicine. They’re more powerful than that

30 April 2016 9:00 am

If we claim books can heal, we must accept they can also harm

Nietzsche's school jeremiad sounds oddly familiar

5 March 2016 9:00 am

When Friedrich Nietzsche was offered a professorship in classical philology at the university of Basel in 1869 he was so…

Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell and the rebirth of a nation

20 February 2016 9:00 am

The purpose of Lara Feigel’s book is to describe the ‘political mission of reconciliation and restoration’ in the devastated cities…

Humboldt talks to one of the indigenous people in Turbaco (today’s Columbia) en route to Bogotá.

Alexander Humboldt: a great explorer rediscovered

6 February 2016 9:00 am

The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was once the most famous man in Europe bar Napoleon. And if you judge…

Schubert’s Lieder as never before

5 December 2015 9:00 am

There can be no good reason why Graham Johnson’s marvellous three-volume encyclopaedia of Schubert’s songs has been so neglected by…

Plotinus and Michel de Montaigne are included in George Steiner’s broad survey. His argument that we should elevate the pursuit of disinterested knowledge over the making of money is a familar one since classical times

From Plotinus to Heidegger: a history of European thought in 48 pages

18 April 2015 9:00 am

T.S. Eliot liked to recall the time he was recognised by his London taxi driver. Surprised, he told the cabbie…

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura: a masterpiece of German Gothic

31 January 2015 9:00 am

In the early 19th century, the Romantic movement was in full swing across Europe. You could probably date its birth…

Those ancient Greeks were bores — but things are looking up

31 January 2015 9:00 am

Thick snow is falling hard and heavy, muffling sounds and turning the picturesque village postcard beautiful. I am lying in…

The undiscovered country: ‘Germany? Where is it?’, asked Goethe and Schiller in a collaborative poem. ‘I don’t know where to find such a place.’ Above: ‘Goethe in the Roman Campagna’, 1787, by Johann Tischbein, currently on show at the British Museum

German history is uniquely awful: that’s what makes it so engrossing

13 December 2014 9:00 am

As I grew up half German in England in the 1970s, my German heritage was confined to the few curios…

A romanticised portrait of Goethe by J.H.W. Tischbein

Germans see the best of their soul in Weimar. Everyone else, on the other hand..

30 August 2014 9:00 am

For centuries hailed as the home of poetry, music and liberalism, Weimar was ruthlessly exploited by the Nazis and later served as a showcase for communism, says Philip Hensher