In the second half of the 19th century, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was rediscovered as a medieval gem where time seemed to have stood still. This image was largely propagated by artists such as Carl Spitzweg, poets (Paul Heyse), art historians (Ludwig Dehio), and architects (Camillo Sitte). In Germany, Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl's “Gang durch das Taubertal” (A Walk through the Tauber Valley), published in 1865, marked an important moment; internationally, the pageant entitled “Der Meistertrunk” (1881) and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (where the Rothenburg Town Hall was used as a model for the German Pavilion) increased the attention given to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Already at the end of the 1860s, American painter Toby Rosenthal (1848–1917) had popularized the visual appeal of Rothenburg townscapes and genre scenes among his painter colleagues in Munich.
In the framework of two, if not three Theme Years (2019) 2020 and 2021, Rothenburg ob the Tauber's picturesque topography is to be revisualized as an urban and rural landscape. In addition to an exhibition of British painters around 1900, to be hosted in the Medieval Crime Museum, Rothenburg cityscapes from the early modern era to the present day will be shown in the Imperial City Museum. A special exhibition will be devoted to the Rothenburg's influence on Raymond Unwin's English Garden City movement. Garden projects involve the hidden garden treasures of Rothenburg citizens; artists' federations such Künstlerbund and Kunstkreis will present contemporary interpretations of picturesque Rothenburg. What's more, there are artist in residence projects organized by the Protestant Conference Center Wildbad as well as musically picturesque contributions in the framework of an International Song Festival 2020 and the Franconian Summer 2019.