PROPERTY FROM THE MARVIN AND JANET FISHMAN FAMILY COLLECTION, MILWAUKEE
oil on canvas
Galerie Israel Ber Neumann, Berlin and New York
Addison Gallery, Philips Academy, Andover (Massachusetts)
Paul Kantor Gallery, Beverly Hills and New York
Clifford Odets, New York and Los Angeles
Sale: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 4th February 1970, lot 84
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, German Expressionism, 1961, no. 170
Milwaukee, Art Center, Ludwig Meidner: Apocalyptic German Expressionist (From the Collection of Marvin and Janet Fishman), 1976, no. 1, illustrated in the catalogue
Bloomington, Indiana University Art Museum, German and Austrian Expressionism 1900 to 1920, 1977, no. 68, illustrated in the catalogue
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art in a Turbulent Era: German and Austrian Expressionism, 1978, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue
Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ludwig Meidner: An Expressionist Master. Drawings and Prints from the D. Thomas Bergen Collection and Paintings from the Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 1978, no. 1, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Milwaukee, The Fine Arts Galleries, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee German Expressionism from Milwaukee Collections, 1979, no. 89, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Royal Academy of Arts and Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, German Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985, 1985-1986, no. 73, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Photographie und Architektur im Martin-Gropius-Bau, Ich und die Stadt: Mensch und Großstadt in der deutschen Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1987, no. 127, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Berlin, Berlin Museum and Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst and Hamburg, Kunstverein, Stadtbilder: Berlin in der Malerie vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, 1987, no. 164, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art and Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Photographie und Architektur im Martin-Gropius-Bau, The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner, 1989-1990, no. 5, illustration of the recto in colour on the cover and on p. 87
Atlanta, High Museum, Art in Berlin 1815-1989, 1990, illustrated in the catalogue
Milwaukee, Art Museum; Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Photographie und Architektur; Frankfurt-am-Main, Schirn Kunsthalle; Emden, Kunsthalle, Stiftung Henri Nannen; New York, The Jewish Museum; Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum and Atlanta, The High Museum, The Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection: Art in Germany 1909-1936, From Expressionism to Resistance, 1990-1992, no. 103
Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe and Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Ludwig Meidner 1884-1966: Zeichner, Maler, Literat, 1991, illustration of the recto in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Figures du Moderne, L'Expressionnisme en Allemagne 1905-1914, Dresde, Munich, Berlin, 1922-1993, no. 380, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Berlin, Altes Museum, Die letzten Tage der Menschheit - Bilder des 1. Weltkrieges, 1994, no. 11/7, illustrated in colour in in the catalogue
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Grand Galerie and Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània, Visions Urbaines/Visiones Urbanas, 1994, no. 115, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
The Hague, Museum Paleis Lange Voorhout; Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall; Helsinki, Helsingin Taidehalli and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Art et Résistance, Les peintres allemandes de l'entre-deux-guerres - La Collection Marvin et Janet Fishman, 1995-1996, no. 104
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Expressionismo Tedesco: Arte e Società, 1997-1998, no. 56, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
The present work is one of the most important and powerful paintings from Meidner's great series of Apocalyptic Landscapes, executed between 1912 and 1916. The Apocalyptic Landscapes (figs. 3-5) do not present rural landscapes in the most common sense of the word: they are urban scenes steeped in imagery of chaos and destruction, reflecting the social, political, emotional and artistic upheaval in Germany at the time. Executed on the brink of World War I in 1913, the present work is a quintessential Expressionist painting, charged with personal symbolism and a more universal apocalyptic vision.
Like other major artists working in Germany at this time, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner and George Grosz, Meidner was widely influenced by contemporary artistic developments in the rest of Europe, in particular Italy and France. Several crucial events and influences that played a central role in Meidner's development are reflected in his works of 1912 and 1913. In November 1912, Meidner's works were publicly exhibited for the first time in the Galerie der Sturm in Berlin, in a group show which included six of his Apocalyptic Landscapes. Several months earlier, in the spring of the same year, the Galerie der Sturm organised the first exhibition of Italian Futurist art ever shown in Germany, and one of the first of its kind outside Italy. Despite its low critical acclaim, the exhibition was extremely popular with the Berlin public, and exerted a strong influence on Meidner, who was fascinated not only by the displayed works, but also by the Futurist Manifesto printed in German in the exhibition catalogue. The impact of the Futurists on Meidner, in particular works by Boccioni, was immediately apparent in his canvases of 1912 and 1913, reflecting the artist's fascination with modernity and contemporary urban life.
Meidner proclaimed: "Let's paint what is close to us, our city world! The wild streets, the elegance of iron suspension bridges, gas tanks which hang in white-cloud mountains, the roaring colours of the buses and express locomotives, the rushing telephone wires (aren't they like music?), the harlequinade of advertising pillars, and then the night...big city night..." (quoted in The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1989, pp. 33 & 36 translated from the German).
Meidner shared with Boccioni and Robert Delaunay a fascination with the dynamism of modern urban life, which he translated onto canvas with vibrant colours, dynamic forms and metaphorical details. A key painting from this period, Ich und die Stadt (fig. 2), bears testimony to the crucial role that urban experience played in the artist's works. Juxtaposing his self-portrait with a cityscape, with its chaotic streets, buildings, chimneys and foggy sky, Meidner makes the crucial link between his own emotional state and the environment he depicts.
While sharing this preoccupation with the modern world with artists such as Boccioni and Delaunay, Meidner's vision of the world differs radically from that of his contemporaries. While the Futurists were celebrating the dynamic energy of the city and Delaunay was marvelling at the achievements and great monuments of modernity, such as the Eiffel Tower (fig. 8), Meidner's cityscapes present an atmosphere of chaos and apocalypse. Reflecting on the time when he worked on the Apocalyptic Landscapes, the artist said: "I trembled [...] in front of canvases that seethed with all the fuming anguish of earth, in every patch of colour, in every scrap of cloud, and in every cascading stream... My brain bled dreadful visions. I could see nothing but a thousand skeletons jigging in a row. Many graves and burned cities writhed across the plains..." (quoted in The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner, op. cit., p. 65).
In Apokalyptische Landschaft, the city under the night sky is illuminated by a bright, white volcanic explosion in the background, uncovering the horrific cityscape: the night sky is broken by this violent erruption, buildings are collapsing from the tremors under the heat of the flaming sun. The shape of the explosion in the upper part of the composition is echoed by a broken branch in the foreground, resembling the form of a dismembered human leg. In the corner, the artist depicts his own self-portrait, fleeing from this chaotic scene into the viewer's space, raising his arms in horror and disbelief.
Executed in the year before the outbreak of the war, this haunting image reflects the artist's fascination with scenes of destruction and suffering, and his premonition of the events which were soon to follow: "I unloaded my obsession onto canvas day and night - Judgement Days, world's ends, and gibbets of skulls; for in those days the great universal storm was already baring its teeth and casting its glaring shadow across my whimpering brush-hand" (quoted in The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner, op. cit., p. 65).
During the war years Meidner continued to paint his apocalyptic visions (fig. 5), using an ever darkening palette, the bright yellows and blues replaced by sombre browns, greys and blacks. His apocalypse takes on an increasingly Biblical imagery, depicting crowds of people awaiting doomsday in horror. However, it is works such as this Apokalyptische Landscaft of 1913 which remain the masterpieces within this series, bearing testimony not only to Meidner's artistic mastery, but also to his visionary powers in the year preceding one of the most destructive and dramatic periods in human history.
FIG. 1, Ludwig Meidner, Apokalyptische Landschaft, 1912-13, oil on canvas, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
FIG. 2, Ludwig Meidner, Ich und die Stadt, 1913, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIG. 3, Ludwig Meidner, Apokalyptische Landschaft (Beim Bahnhof Halensee), 1913, oil on canvas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
FIG. 4, Ludwig Meidner, Brennende Stadt, 1913, oil on canvas, The Saint Louis Art Museum
FIG. 5, Ludwig Meidner, Apokalyptische Landschaft, 1916, oil on canvas, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg
FIG. 6, Umberto Boccioni, The Strengths of a Street, 1911, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIG. 7, Franz Marc, Tierschicksale, 1913, oil on canvas, Kunstmuseum, Basel
FIG. 8, Robert Delaunay, Champs de Mars, 1911, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago
FIG. 9, George Grosz, Explosion, 1917, oil on board, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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