Lovis Corinth

Left: Small Self-Portrait. 1924. Oil on canvas. Acquired by the Harvard University Art Msueums from the Galerie St. Etienne.

Right: Lovis Corinth. Photograph.


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013

Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013

The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007

Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007

More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006

* Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005

Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005

65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005

The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001

From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000

Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000

Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999

Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996

The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996

Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995

On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995

55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994

Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993

The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993

Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992

The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991

Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991

* Lovis Corinth

A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990

The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990

Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988

Three Pre-Expressionists

Lovis Corinth Käthe Kollwitz Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 26, 1988 - March 12, 1988

Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987

Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985

European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985

Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985

Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983

25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964

Paintings by Expressionists

January 27, 1962

European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959

Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953

* Lovis Corinth

May 13, 1949

* Lovis Corinth

April 16, 1947

* Lovis Corinth

May 26, 1943

Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940

Group Exhibition

May 1, 1939

Important Paintings

November 29, 1937

* Lovis Corinth

Memorial Exhibition, Part II

March 23, 1929

* Lovis Corinth

Memorial Exhibition, Part I

November 7, 1926


A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990




Every serious student of German art recognizes that Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) occupies a pivotal place in the transition from late nineteenth-century naturalism to Expressionism. As the critic Hilton Kramer phrased it, he is the “hinge on which a rich inheritance undergoes a profound metamorphosis into the peculiar stringencies of the modern era.” Some have compared Corinth’s place in German art history to that of Manet in France, others have likened him to Rodin or Van Gogh. Few artists of any nationality traversed a comparable array of styles and epochs. Schooled in the conventional academic manner, he began his career by crafting stereotypical historical pieces and ended by leapfrogging over the budding Expressionists with his own unique brand of expressive realism. His achievement thus encapsulates the entire genesis and triumph of German modernism.


Yet despite the monumental sweep of Corinth’s career and his profound and undeniable influence on his younger colleagues, the artist remains surprisingly little known in the United States. His work was shown here as early as 1937, twelve years after his death, and in 1943 and 1947 the Galerie St. Etienne mounted extensive exhibitions. When, in 1950, the dealer Curt Valentin organized a traveling show that toured the nation, it was hoped that the exhibition would “gain for Corinth his rightful place in our picture of European art.” However, all these laudable efforts failed to produce any lasting resonance. In 1964, upon the opening of a major Corinth retrospective at New York’s short-lived Gallery of Modern Art, Hilton Kramer could again write, “it is now the hour for his great work to enter into its rightful position in our histories, in our museums, and, above all, in that part of our lives where art . . . really counts.” And again, the promised apotheosis failed to materialize.


There are several reasons why Corinth’s work has never thus far captured the American imagination. The most obvious and frequently cited one is his German background, which in the aftermath of two world wars was repugnant to viewers in a former enemy nation. Still, such prejudices have not prevented numerous Expressionists from gaining a strong following in America’s museums and sales rooms. Corinth’s Germanness is a factor only to the extent that it is inextricably intertwined with his deep roots in a nineteenth-century tradition which, until recently, was thoroughly rejected by most connoiseurs of modernism.


Corinth was a plodding and unlikely artist. His birth, in 1858 in the East Prussian town of Tapiau, was inauspiscious at best. Culture and refinement were unknown concepts in his family, which was dominated by his loutish and at times violent stepbrothers (the artist’s mother, thirteen years older than his father, had brought five adolescent sons to the marriage). An indifferent student, Corinth first knew happiness when, in 1876, he convinced his father to let him leave highschool for the Königsberg Art Academy. Here he began some eleven years of artistic training, tracing a checkered path from Königsberg to Munich to Antwerp to Paris and back again, finally, to Munich and Königsberg. At the Académie Julian in Paris, facing nationalistic hostility from his French competitors, he was granted admission to the prestigious Salon, but denied the “honorable mention” he so dearly coveted. Over the ensuing years, he gathered a small share of favorable reviews and awards (even, in 1890, an “honorable mention” in Paris), but he lived off the income from his family’s property; only in 1895, at the age of thirty-eight, did he sell his first painting.


Though Corinth, like many artists of his time, eventually came to earn a good living from his portraits, and his oeuvre included a broad range of subjects, from landscapes, nudes and still lifes to genre pieces, his schooling and subsequent professional experiences taught him to expect the most accolades for elaborate figural compositions depicting traditional religious, historical and literary themes. It was with such works that he gradually made his reputation, first in Munich and then in Berlin, where he moved in 1901 to seek his fortune with the recently founded Secession. Firmly rooted in the academic naturalism that constituted the core of Corinth’s lengthy training, these paintings had a blowsy sensuality and a contemporary immediacy that some critics found disrespectful to the loftiness of their ostensible themes. Corinth’s increasingly vigorous impasto--influenced by French Impressionism--equally placed him within the ranks of the current avant-garde, to the occasional disgruntlement of more conservative forces.


Corinth believed that historical and literary subjects had meaning only insofar as they reflected upon real life, and, conversely, that the mysteries of life could be explained and understood through the repetition of these age-old stories. This personalized approach was greatly enhanced following the artist’s 1903 marriage to one of his students, the painter Charlotte Berend. Berend proved a willing model, eager to assume whatever guise--nymph, costumed seductress, or simply wife--her husband’s whim commanded. The sometimes irritating bravado of Corinth’s work from this period (he liked to depict himself in armor, as conquering hero, or as a paunchy and bleary-eyed bacchannt, lording it over the nubile Charlotte) denotes not only the artist's happy homelife, but his very real triumph over the German art scene. In addition to teaching, the scope of his activities had expanded to include stage design and book illustration. By 1910, he himself had authored no fewer than three volumes: a teaching manual, a biography of the artist Waler Leistikow, and a fictionalized autobiography. A member of the Secession’s executive committee since 1902, he was named its president in 1910.


This seemingly idyllic existence was irrevocably shattered when, in December 1911, Corinth suffered a stroke. Though he made a good recovery, he remained physically weakened and, more important, emotionally scarred by his brush with death. His enemies within the Berlin art world spread vicious rumors about the degree of his incapacitation, and in late 1912 he voluntarily relinquished the presidency of the Secession. His lovely wife, then just thirty-two, began for the first time to feel the difference in their ages, and his portraits of her diminished both in frequency and in intimacy. However, whatever this branch of Corinth’s repertory lost was more than compensated for by the energy he thrust into his self-portraits, still lifes, and, especially, into the landscapes that he painted on the Walchensee (where, after a vacation visit in 1918, the family built a house). His brushwork, freed at last from the optical schema of Impressionism, achieved an emotional frenzy that accurately reflected the artist’s ruminations on death and decay. These last works overpowered in strength and eventually number (more than half the artist’s oeuvre postdates the stroke) the more ambitious figural pieces of Corinth’s heyday. Indeed, the brooding melancholy of the late period--heightened by the artist’s despair over Germany’s defeat in World War I--represented the flip side of his prior ebullience. And though Corinth himself, fighting to reaffirm the validity of his earlier career in the face of approaching senescence, disavowed the innovations of the rising Expressionist generation, in a very real sense he matched their angst-laden probings step for step. When he died in 1925, he was widely hailed as one of the major figures of his age, and virtually every German city held a commemorative exhibition.


Perhaps only today can the full significance of Corinth’s accomplishments be properly appreciated in the United States. Not only have the recent Neo-Expressionists taken his legacy to heart, but revisionist scholars now readily acknowledge the substantial contributions of nineteenth-century academicism to the modernist tradition. What seems contradictory within Corinth’s career--simply because it is the career of a single man--is in fact mirrored in the history of modern art as a whole.