Lot 4
  • 4

ALFRED KUBIN | Epidemie (Epidemic)

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Alfred Kubin
  • Epidemie (Epidemic)
  • signed AKubin (lower right) and titled (lower centre); with the Max Morgenstern Collection Stamp on the verso
  • pen and ink, wash and Spritztechnik on Kataster paper
  • image size: 26.4 by 25.8cm., 10 3/8 by 10 1/8 in.
  • sheet size: 30.3 by 30cm., 11 7/8 by 11 3/4 in.
  • Executed circa 1900-01.


Maximilian (Max) & Hertha Morgenstern, Vienna (acquired from the artist) Dr. Kurt Otte, Hamburg (acquired from the above in June 1938)

Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (acquired from the above in 1971)

Restituted by the above to the heirs of Max & Hertha Morgenstern in 2019


Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Alfred Kubin, Handzeichnungen, Aquarelle und druckgraphische Arbeiten, 1937, no. 11 Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle; Munich, Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste & Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Alfred Kubin, Das zeichnerische Frühwerk bis 1904, 1977, no. 61

Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Experiment Weltuntergang, Wien um 1900, 1981, no. 252

Vienna, Österreichische Landesbank & Linz, Österreichisches Landesmuseum, Alfred Kubin, Das Leben ein Abgrund, 1985-86, no. 27

Passau, Festspiele Europäische Woche, Kubin und die phantastische Kunst, 1987, no. 2

Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus & Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Alfred Kubin, 1990-91, no. 56, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Neue Galerie, Alfred Kubin: 1897-1909, 2008-09, no. 24, illustrated in colour in the catalogue 

Munich, Lenbachhaus & Vienna, Albertina, Der Blaue Reiter, Tanz der Farben. Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik aus dem Lenbachhaus, 2010-11, no. 133, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Nottingham, Nottingham Contemporary, Alfred Kubin. The Other Side, 2012, no. 14, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Hans von Weber (ed.), Facsimiledrucke nach Kunstblättern von Alfred Kubin, Munich, 1903, illustration of the portfolio version pl. 7 Richard Schaukal, 'Ein österreichischer Goya', in Wiener Abendpost, 3rd January 1903

Hermann Esswein, Alfred Kubin, Der Künstler und sein Werk, Munich, 1911, p. 28

Wilhelm Fraenger, Alfred Kubin, Xenien 5, 1912, p. 706

Ernst Willy Bredt, Alfred Kubin. Mit 63 Abbildungen, Munich, 1922, p. 46

Paul Raabe (ed.), Alfred Kubin, Leben Werk Wirkung, Hamburg, 1957, illustrated n.p.

Alfred Kubin zum 125. Geburtstag (exhibition catalogue), Pinzgau, Badhaus zu Leogang, 2002, illustration of the portfolio version n.p.

Phantastisch! Alfred Kubin und der Blaue Reiter (exhibition catalogue), Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2018, illustration of the portfolio version p. 217

Catalogue Note

‘The depth to which a work penetrates human experience is surely the ultimate criterion of artistic excellence.’
Rudolf Arnheim, The Rationale of Deformation, Art Journal, vol. 43, no. 4, winter 1983, p. 323 Alfred Kubin’s Epidemie, executed circa 1901-02, conveys the figure of death in a spider-like form, plaguing a secluded house in the depth of winter and exuding the atmosphere of suppression and terror. Epidemie demonstrates Kubin’s mastery over the medium of ink, powerfully rendering the dark realms of his subconscious and nightmarish visions of doom. The present work was amongst a selection of drawings chosen for the Weber-Mappe in 1903, a portfolio of fifteen reproductions published by Hans von Weber; these characteristic pen and ink drawings from 1898 to 1903 are the most esteemed of Kubin's entire œuvre.

Kubin was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter, sharing the group’s endeavour to transcend art to a spiritual plane. He was close friends with Paul Klee and corresponded with artists and philosophers of his day but also followed his own artistic path. In his autobiography, writing about his engagement with Schopenhauer’s philosophy, Kubin states: ‘In my desperate mood I found his pessimistic Weltanschauung the only correct one, and I revelled in his ideas – with the consequence that my universal discontent only grew greater’ (A. Kubin, The Life and Art of Alfred Kubin, 1917, p. 13).

Like the Symbolist artists Odilon Redon, Max Klinger and Félicien Rops, Kubin was inspired by the philosophy of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and the literature of Dostoyevsky and Poe, which offered countless points of departure for artists who agonized over the human condition. The influence of Charles Baudelaire’s Correspondences is particularly striking for such Symbolist artists and especially in relation to the physical and natural elements giving access to the spiritual realm. The present work is evocative of works by Redon's works, an artist much admired by Kubin and a source of inspiration. Redon’s noirs, and especially his nine lithographs Les Origines of 1883 recall ideas of the animal and the human, metamorphosis, life and death, black and white - themes and tropes predominantly employed by both artists. Kubin experiments with shadows and juxtaposed figures, playing with the surface of the sheet, shifting from a flat one-dimensional to a two-dimensional background, foreground and background. Ambiguities of space, perspective and light are implied, alongside the opposing qualities of health and sickness as well as life and death.

Two of Kubin's most frequent themes are death and the eternal wanderer. Paul Klee once remarked that Kubin interpreted the world as ‘poison’ (quoted in James H. Mitchell, 'Alfred Kubin', in Art Journal, vol. 28, no. 4, summer, 1969, p. 399). Evidently for Kubin, only the most grotesque creatures could thrive on the bitter concoction called ‘life’; gigantic insects, serpentine and spidery creatures comprise his fantastical imagery, all reflecting the frightful menagerie of a nightmare. Kubin never underestimated the value of dreams and he studied the literature on the subject, all the while employing his own subconscious to dictate his art. Kubin's style reflects a distorted world, unsure of its bearings and stupefied by reality. His lines are quick and seemingly frantic, signs of impending violence. Drawings like Epidemie burst on us like dreams and they seem to possess, as dreams do, the qualities of pace and irreversibility.

This work is recorded in the Kubin Archiv at the Lenbachhaus, Munich under no. 189.