Karl Friedrich Schinkel (13 March 1781 – 9 October 1841) was a Prussian artist and architect. He was born in Neuruppin, Margraviate of Brandenburg. He became a student of architect Friedrich Gilly (1772–1800). After returning to Berlin from his first trip to Italy in 1805, he started to earn his living as a painter. Working for the stage he created in 1816 a star-spangled backdrop for the appearance of the "Königin der Nacht" in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. When he saw Caspar David Friedrich's painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog at the 1810 Berlin art exhibition he decided that he would never reach such mastery of painting and turned to architecture. After Napoleon's defeat, Schinkel oversaw the Prussian Building Commission. In this position, he was not only responsible for reshaping the still relatively unspectacular city of Berlin into a representative capital for Prussia. From 1808 to 1817 Schinkel renovated and reconstructed Schloss Rosenau, Coburg, in the Gothic Revival style and rebuilt the ruins of Chorin Abbey.
Schinkel's style, in his most productive period, is defined by a turn to Greek rather than Imperial Roman architecture, an attempt to turn away from the style that was linked to the recent French occupiers. Thus, he is a noted proponent of the Greek Revival. His most famous buildings are found in and around Berlin. These include Neue Wache (1816–1818), National Monument for the Liberation Wars (1818–1821), the Konzerthaus Berlin (1819–1821) at the Gendarmenmarkt, which replaced the earlier theatre that was destroyed by fire in 1817, the Altes Museum on Museum Island (1823–1830), and The Building Academy know as Bauakademie located at Schinkelplatz in Berlin (1932-36).
Later, Schinkel moved away from classicism altogether, embracing the Neo-Gothic in his Friedrichswerder Church (1824–1831). Schinkel's Bauakademie (1832–1836), his most innovative building, eschewed historicist conventions and seemed to point the way to a clean-lined "modernist" architecture that would become prominent in Germany only toward the beginning of the 20th century.
It has been speculated, however, that due to the difficult political circumstances – French occupation and the dependency on the Prussian king – and his relatively early death, which prevented him from seeing the explosive German industrialization in the second half of the 19th century, he was not able to live up to the true potential exhibited by his sketches. Schinkel died in Berlin, Province of Brandenburg.
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