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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth (1858 – 1925) was a German artist and writer whose work as a painter and printmaker realised a synthesis of impressionism and expressionism. Corinth studied in Paris and Munich and joined the Berlin Secession group.

Corinth was initially antagonistic towards the expressionist movement, but after a stroke in 1911 his style loosened and took on many expressionistic qualities. Corinth’s use of colour became more vibrant, and his art gained increased vitality and power.

During the Third Reich, Corinth’s work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate art. In 1937, Nazi authorities removed 295 of his works from public collections and transported seven of them to Munich where they were displayed in March 1937 in the Degenerate Art Exhibition.

A Tour of Lovis Corinth’s Art

  • Innocence
    • Innocence by Lovis Corinth depicts a young girl stripped to the waist in frontal view, crossing his arms over her chest with her hands partially covering her breasts. A white and olive green garment covers her belly below the arms. Her right nipple is visible between the middle and index fingers of the left hand. Her head is on a slight slant, and she wears a violet scarf, which hangs behind her right shoulder as a veil, forming the background to her body. She looks melancholy and absent-mindedly dreamy. The canvas is marked in the upper left corner with the title of “Innocentia” and signed in the top right corner with Lovis Corinth. Museum:  Lenbachhaus
  • Self-portrait with Model
    • In “Self-portrait with Model” by Lovis Corinth, the artist is making a statement about his painting process and the subtle relationship between model and artist. Corinth is showing us a painted model representing the artist, while an artist in the painting is likewise the model. The female nude is facing the canvas as the artist himself would have done to paint it. Her right-hand flat on the “canvas” is touching it as the artist would have done, representing the artist’s own hand painting. Yet on the left-hand side of this picture, the two are interwound to further highlight the complicated relationship between the artist and his subject.  Museum: Kunsthaus Zürich
  • Portraits by Lovis Corinth
    • Portrait of a Woman with Hat
      • “Portrait of a Woman with Hat” by Lovis Corinth portrays Luise Halbe. Luise Christiane Halbe (1867 – 1957) was the wife of the German writer Max Halbe (1865-1944). After the death of her husband, she founded the Max Halbe Society in Munich in 1953 to cultivate his literary estate. In 1955, she received the Cross of Merit (Steckkreuz) of the Federal Republic of Germany, “For her special services to German literature”. Museum: Lenbachhaus
    • Portrait of the painter Karl Strathmann
      • “Portrait of the painter Karl Strathmann” by Lovis Corinth depicts Carl Strathmann (1866 – 1939) a German painter and illustrator of Art Nouveau and symbolism. In 1891 Strathmann moved to Munich to live in his bohemia as a freelance artist. In Munich, he met the painter Lovis Corinth, with whom he had a lifelong friendship. Corinth wrote that “Strathmann, in his persistence, immerses himself in the ornamental patterns of his paintings down to the smallest detail and seeks to compose new motifs into the details.” Museum: Lenbachhaus
    • Portrait of father Franz Heinrich Corinth with Wineglass
      • “Portrait of father Franz Heinrich Corinth with Wineglass” by Lovis Corinth is a portrait of his father and was one of Corinth’s early works in 1883 in Munich. The painting shows the artist’s father, sitting in a chair at a table, in a frontal portrait, looking directly at the artist and the viewer. He wears dark trousers with a dark waistcoat, a white shirt and a dark coat. Above the vest is a gold watch chain and on his left hand, which wears a gold ring, he holds a cigar while resting his head on his right hand. The right elbow rests on the table with a golden wine cup, and a red rose on a bright table covering. His father died five years after this painting. Museum: Lenbachhaus
    • Self-portrait with Skeleton
      • “Self-portrait with Skeleton” by Lovis Corinth shows the artist at 38 years-old. In 1891, Corinth returned to Munich, but in 1892 he abandoned the Munich Academy and joined the Munich Secession. In 1894 he joined the Free Association, and in 1899 he participated in an exhibition organised by the Berlin Secession. These nine years in Munich were not his most productive, and he became better known for his drinking. Museum: Lenbachhaus

Degenerate Art

Degenerate Art was a term adopted in the 1920s by the Nazi Party in Germany to describe modern art. Under Adolf Hitler’s leadership, modernist art was removed from museums and banned in Nazi Germany because such art was an un-German, Jewish, or Communist. Artists labelled as degenerate artists were subjected to being dismissed from teaching positions, were forbidden to show or to sell their art and were forbidden to produce art. The Nazis promoted paintings and sculptures that were traditional, and that exalted the values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience.

Degenerate Art Exhibition

The Nazis held the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich in 1937, which displayed 650 modernist artworks. The art was deliberately hung chaotically and disparagingly, with accompanying labels that deriding the art. The exhibition was designed to inflame public opinion against modernism; the show subsequently travelled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

After the show, the paintings were mainly sold in Switzerland at auction to raise funds for Nazi causes. Museums acquired some pieces; private collectors purchased others. Ironically, high-ranking Nazi officials took many for their private use. Hermann Göring took 14 valuable pieces, including a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. In 1939, the Berlin Fire Brigade burned about 4000 paintings, drawings and prints that had little value on the international market. This destruction of thousands of artworks was an act of unprecedented Art vandalism.

Lovis Corinth

A Tour of Artists & their Art

Reflections

  • Which portrait style do you prefer?

Lovis Corinth Quotes

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“In the autumn of 1884, I went to Paris. The spirit that greeted me was certainly more impressive than in Germany.”

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“I admire the French painting from Watteau to Monet; otherwise, there is nothing that can be said to be exceptional.”

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“My conscious motivation was to bring German art up to the highest level.”

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“Diseases, a paralysis of the left side, a monstrous right-hand tremor …
and caused by previous excesses with alcohol,
prevent me from doing any calligraphic craftsmanship.”

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“A constant effort to achieve my goal
– I’ve never reached the degree hoped – has exacerbated my life,
and every job has ended with the depression of having to go on with this life.”

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“A burning ambition has always tormented me.
There has not been a day when I did not curse my life and did not want to terminate it.”

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“My conscious motivation was to bring German art up to the highest level.”
– Lovis Corinth

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Photo Credit: Lovis Corinth [Public domain]

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