San Francisco

Lovis Corinth

The soft, fast and cursive drawings of the “Deluge” series are at the end of a career which began in the 19th century with rather tight academic drawing with overtones of Art Nouveau subject matter (Bacchanalia, for example). Though his work parallels the German Expressionists, and he is generally included among them, he cannot be classified as a “Blau Reiter” or a member of “Der Brucke,” but was in fact an independent. Perhaps that is why his work has not been included in some of the tidily organized and well-circulated exhibitions of German Expressionism since the war.

The “Deluge” series, which were very popular at the time, seem overdramatic and over-romantic from our vantage point. His drypoint etchings are much more germane to modern sensibilities. His line during this phase was very short and fast, with a diagonality primarily in the same direction within each print. He depended on that weaving of diagonals for unity; the prints demonstrate very little compositional concern, scrived in the plate directly, almost automatically. The faces of the drypoint period are careworn and anxious, but also very severe and certain. Corinth clearly understood that side of the German personality which was so tragically corrupted during the Hitler years; these prints were an ominous portent, infinitely more knowing than the more directly cartoonish and political prints of the “Neue Sachlichkeit” group, another large subdivision of German Expressionism. He was an artist with his eyes wide open and with no theories to warp his insight.

Knute Stiles