Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German pronunciation: (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long poem of modern European literature. His other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentalism (Empfindsamkeit), Sturm und Drang and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text Theory of Colours, his influential ideas on plant and animal morphology and homology were extended and developed by 19th century naturalists including Charles Darwin. He also served at length as the Privy Councilor of the duchy of Saxe-Weimar.

In politics Goethe was conservative. At the time of the French Revolution, he thought the enthusiasm of the students and professors to be a perversion of their energy and remained skeptical of the ability of the masses to govern. Likewise, he "did not oppose the War of Liberation waged by the German states against Napoleon, but remained aloof from the patriotic efforts to unite the various parts of Germany into one nation; he advocated instead the maintenance of small principalities ruled by benevolent despots."

Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a major source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry and philosophy. Early in his career, however, he wondered whether painting might be his true vocation; late in his life, he expressed the expectation that he would ultimately be remembered above all for his work on color.

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