Danube School: artistic movement that originated in the Austrian Danube area at the end of the 15th century, spread to the Bavarian Danube area and to a large part of the Alpine countries and to areas further afield, where it became known under the name of "Donaustil" (Danube style). The Danube School was not a uniform school of painting modelled on the works of one master, but consisted of a number of schools and artists. The Danube School was mainly represented in painting and graphic art, later also in sculptural art. It is characterised by a close relation to nature that found its expression mainly in a preference for a highly dynamic depiction of nature. Religious and profane events were embedded in the representation of landscape. Landscapes were represented in a very expressive way, giving the Danube School a poetic and visionary touch. The works of the Danube School are characterised by their richness of invention, the glow of colours and last but not least by the somewhat eccentric stroke.
Some of the earliest works are altars that R. Frueauf the Younger (altarpieces of the Johannes Altar around 1498/99 and of the Leopold Altar 1505 in Klosterneuburg), L. Cranach and J. Breu the Elder (Bernhardi Altar in Zwettl, 1500, former Aggsbach Altar, 1501, former Melk High Altar, 1502) created for monasteries in Lower Austria and for Vienna in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. They were soon followed by other, mostly anonymous, artists such as the creator of the Pulkau Altar (Pulkau High Altar, around 1520) or the "Meister der Historia", named after an illustrated biography of Friedrich III and of the childhood of his son Maximilian (who commissioned the work). Recent research has again suggested that A. Altdorfer was identical with the "Meister der Historia"; in any case he was a contemporary or pupil of Albrecht and Erhard Altdorfer of Regensburg; the former visited Austria several times and worked on altars for the monastery of St. Florian (Sebastian Altar with 8 Passion scenes, 1509-1518), the latter lived and worked in Austria for several years. The painter and draughtsman A. Altdorfer was a central figure of the Danube School. The most important Austrian artist of the Danube School was W. Huber from Vorarlberg (St. Ann´s Altar of Feldkirch, 1521), his last position was that of court painter to the Bishop of Passau. He created the first "pure" landscapes in central-European art history. The main œuvres of the Danube School are the works of the "Master of the Miracles of Mariazell" (Kleiner Mariazeller Wunderaltar (miraculous altar) with 6 scenes, 1512, and Grosser Mariazeller Wunderaltar (miraculous altar) with 47 scenes, 1519, today both on exhibit at the Joanneum in Graz) as well as numerous sculptures and reliefs.
Among the most important sculptors working in Austria at that time were H. Leinberger, A. Lackner (former Abtenauer Hochaltar, 1518, parts of which are today kept in the Oesterreichische Galerie in Vienna and in the monastery of St. Peter, Salzburg) and "Meister I. P.".
Around the mid-16th century the Danube School style was increasingly replaced by the Renaissance style, showing Italian and Dutch influences.
Literature#A. Stange, Malerei der Donauschule, 1964; Die Kunst der Donauschule, exhibition catalogue St. Florian/Linz 1965; W. Lipp, Natur in der Zeichnung A. Altdorfers, doctoral thesis, Salzburg 1970; K. Packpfeiffer (nee Hauser), Studien zu E. Altdorfer, doctoral thesis, Vienna 1974; R. A. Locicnik, Die Donauschule, doctoral thesis, Salzburg 1990; R. Froeis-Schuler, Gedanken zum Stilbegriff "Donauschule" in der Plastik, master´s thesis, Innsbruck 1993.