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Passion Window

Heinrich Campendonk
Harlem 1937 / Kevelaer 2001

Originally executed for the international exhibition in Paris, 1937
This is the fourth, posthumous, edition, carried out in 2001 by the Hein Derix stained-glass, mosaic and restoration workshop in Kevelaer, Germany

55 × 150cm
Polychrome, hand-blown antique glass, black vitreous glass paint used for outlines and matts, red flashed glass, lead cames


Pablo Picasso presented his painting Guernica at the Spanish Pavilion of the international exhibition in Paris in 1937. The work became a pacifist symbol of the twentieth century. During the same exhibition, Heinrich Campendonk exhibited this Passion Window in the Dutch Pavilion, and was awarded a gold medal for it.

From 1926, Campendonk was professor at the Kunstakademie (Academy of the Arts) in Düsseldorf. He was branded as a degenerate artist by the National Socialists and forced into retirement. He emigrated at first to Belgium, and in 1935 took up a professorship at the Rijksakademie (National Academy) in Amsterdam. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, Campendonk had to go to ground for a while. After the end of the Second World War, he returned to Germany.

This triptych develops its subject in a rich array of symbols from the story of the Passion of Christ. The right-hand side deals with Christ’s betrayal and his being taken prisoner: the small sack and the coins stand for the money paid to Judas Iscariot; the knife and ear stand for Christ’s arrest, during which St Peter cut off the ear of a servant; and the cockerel symbolizes the daybreak before which Peter denied Christ three times. The left-hand side of the image shows of the next stage of the Passion story: the ewer and hand refer to Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands free of guilt; a cord stands for the flagellation; and three dice and a piece of material remind one of the soldiers who cast lots for Christ’s garment. The central panel constitutes the high point of the composition: it shows frontally the head of Christ, crowned with thorns, beneath which are the instruments of the crucifixion – the nails, hammer, lance and pincers.

The lamp that appears on the left-hand side of the central section does not belong to the established canon of Passion symbols. Its red flame flashes forth from the otherwise blue tonal palette of the whole composition. It can be understood as a symbol for eternal light – and therefore as a sign of hope for a better future.

Campendonk’s prepatory work for this Passion Window consisted of a design (on a scale of 1:10), and a cartoon (on a scale of 1:1), on which are indicated the colours and cutlines of the glasses, the configuration of the lead cames, the various thicknesses of the lead, and the detailed drawing and shadings for the black/brown vitreous paint. The lead cames generally follow the outlines of the objects.

Four versions of the Passion Window exist. The first, executed for the Paris exhibition, is executed in a delicate palette of blue and ochre; it is now on loan to the Instituut Collectie Nederland im Museum in Ravenstein (Netherlands). The second, more colourful rendition of 1959 belongs to the Clemens-Sels-Museum in Neuss (Germany). The third version, executed in 1997, was installed in the Catholic Church of Christ the King in Penzberg (Germany); it has the same tonal palette as the fourth version presented here.


Maria-Katharina Schulz, Glasmalerei der Klassischen Moderne in Deutschland, Europäische Hochschulschriften Reihe 28: Kunstgeschichte, 74, Frankfurt am Main, 1987, pp. 129–30, Abb. 54

Astrid Schunck, ‘Stationen der Glasmalerei Heinrich Campendonks’, in Heinrich Campendonk: Die zweite Lebenshälfte eines Blauen Reiters, exhibition catalogue, Museum Schloss Moyland, Bedburg-Hau/museum voor moderne kunst, amstelveen 2001–2002, pp. 100–128, notes on pp. 279–83; on the Passion Window, see p. 110 and the col. pl. on p. 23

Freia Oliv, ‘Fragile Aufbrüche: Campendonks Glasfenster zur Passion und zu Jesaja’, in Heinrich Campendonk: Rausch und Reduktion, exhibition catalogue, Stadtmuseum Penzberg 2007, p. 137–55, esp. pp. 144–47, col. pl.

This text was originally published in the exhibition catalogue Glasmalerei der Moderne: Faszination im Gegenlicht (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, 9 July – 9 October 2011), cat. no. 24, p. 157

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Biografie Heinrich Campendonk

Stained-glass window, glass sculpture, Heinrich Campendonk