The title figure is the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald (c1470-1528), whose Isenheim Altarpiece inspired much creative twentieth century work. During the early stages of the opera, Hindemith also wrote a symphony by the same name, which became one of his best known works.
Hindemith was interested in the Protestant Reformation, his opera depicts the struggle for artistic freedom - both Grünewald's, in Renaissance times, and his own, during the rise of the Nazis.
Ensemble. Philosophy and Theology - Paul Hindemith's 'Mathis der Maler' at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest impresses Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Pilgrimages of the Soul - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Italy's Sagra Musicale Umbra