Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth (Tapiau, Ostpreußen 1858 - 1925 Zandvoort)

Pheasant and Fruit, 1915

Oil on canvas, 45 x 68 cm
Signed and dated upper right Lovis Corinth / 1915

Provenance:
Hermann Struck, Berlin, 1923
Dr. Felix Struck, Berlin 1926
Heinrich Thannhauser, Berlin (?)
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Köln, inv. no. WRM 2726, 1946/47-1951
Galerie Abels, Köln, 1951
Dr. G. Beindorf, Hannover
H. Rohde, Bad Homburg, 1956
Georg Schäfer private collection, Schweinfurt
German private collection

Exhibition:
Gedächtnisausstellung Lovis Corinth, Nationalgalerie Berlin 1923, no. 112
Lovis Corinth. Ausstellung zu seinem Gedächtnis, 12. - 15. October 1926, Kunstverein Kassel, no. 45
Lovis Corinth. Ausstellung von Gemälden und Aquarellen zu seinem Gedächtnis,
Nationalgalerie Berlin 1926, no. 269
Lovis Corinth, Hauptwerke der Spätzeit, Ausstellung zum 25. Todestag des Künstlers, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, 1950, no. 6
Lovis Corinth, Cologne Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 1950
Sonderausstellung Lovis Corinth, 28.3.-30.04.1955, Düsseldorf, Galerie Großhennig,
1955, no. 3

Literature:
Charlotte Berend-Corinth, Die Gemälde von Lovis Corinth, catalogue raisonné, Munich, 1958, no. 643, repr. p. 136
Charlotte Berend-Corinth, Die Gemälde von Lovis Corinth, catalogue raisonné, Munich 1992, no. 643

 

We thank Cathrin Klingsöhr-Leroy for the following catalogue entry:

Two dead birds – hunter’s spoils – lie on a white tablecloth next to fruits and vegetables: Corinth’s still life, Pheasant and Fruit, immediately recalls Dutch and Flemish examples of the genre from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This association is soon superseded, however, by the impression of a completely new vision. Corinth devised his composition to seem like a snapshot, whose edges arbitrarily cut off the objects in view. Instead of resembling the artistic arrangements seen in earlier still lifes, this ensemble seems to have been accidentally glimpsed by the painter. Corinth creates a new order with a finely tuned palette – ranging through brown, pink, green and blue – impulsive brushwork, and the warm gleam of oil paint. Sensory perception replaces intellectual analysis while viewing the painting, thus opening up a traditional subject to a new interpretation.

The kind of contemplative viewing that befits this genre is hardly possible with Lovis Corinth’s still lifes, and the lifelessness suggested by the French and Italian terms “nature morte” and “natura morta” is not applicable to these paintings either. Corinth’s still lifes confront the viewer with a vitality emanating not from the subject but from the painting itself. The pheasant is admittedly dead, the fruit lies motionless on the table, the flowers are artistically arranged in various vessels, but they are infused with unexpected energy by the painter’s characteristic spontaneity and virtuoso technique. With every brushstroke he makes the dead bird’s feathers shine and ensures that the flowers radiate countless nuances of color, so that they seem to glow from within. He unfolds their blooms before our very eyes, showing us an array of diverse hues that allows vitality to be experienced in a new way, as a quality separate from the objects.

“Every brushstroke is twitching life,”[1] as this phenomenon was described by the art critic Gustav Pauli in 1924. At that time, a year before Corinth’s death, his explosive late work had gained recognition, and was not merely considered an important part of his oeuvre but judged to be the expression of an artistic power that confirmed Lovis Corinth’s outstanding position among the German painters of his generation.

After studying in Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad, Russian Federation), Munich, Antwerp and Paris, Corinth spent eight years in Munich and subsequently lived in Berlin from 1899 until his death. He played an important role in the artistic life of this city, functioning as a committee member of the Berlin Secession and becoming its chairman in 1911. His success, which enabled him and his family – his wife, Charlotte, and their two children, Thomas and Wilhelmine – to live in ease and affluence, was based on the combination of a traditional, academic training and the technical perfection acquired under the tutelage of, among others, the Paris Salon painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Another factor was Corinth’s innovative perspective on historical, mythological and religious themes. He succeeded in reconciling history painting with contemporary values and modern sensibilities, and was, moreover, a sought-after portraitist.

Still lifes and landscapes gain in significance only in Corinth’s late work. From 1912/13 onwards he changed his manner of painting, which came to be defined by an increasingly spontaneous and impulsive handling of paint. Atmosphere, colorfulness and light became the actual themes of his paintings. This is particularly noticeable in the views of Walchensee, a group of 55 landscapes that originated from 1918 onwards, beginning with the painter’s first stay at this lake in the Upper Bavarian Alps.

The reception of Corinth’s work reflects his development. In honor of his 65th birthday, the new department of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, housed in the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace), presented 170 paintings and opened a Corinth Gallery in its permanent collection, in addition to the galleries devoted to Nolde, Beckmann, Kirchner and Marc.[2] The important essayist and art critic Julius Meier-Graefe wrote the following to Corinth: “As you know, the great Frenchmen are close to my heart and I often find it difficult, when confronted with your paintings, to repress all ideas of the organism of the picture that is tied to Renoir, Cézanne, Delacroix. Never have I found this so easy as at your exhibition yesterday. Questions of taste are superfluous in the case of an artist with your innately pictorial nature. It smells much better in Paris, but I don’t care at all about scent in the face of so much overflowing nature.”[3]

The new “proximity to nature” (“Naturnähe”) in Corinth’s work, which was stressed by Meier-Graefe, began in the years after the artist’s physical collapse in December 1911. Psychologically changed, and increasingly aware of his own fragility and approaching death, the painter wrote at the end of his life “ … true art is the practice of unreality. The ultimate!”[4] Corinth thus articulated the radically painterly approach of his later work in a formula that makes clear that he captures the “nature of things” not by rendering them illusionistically but by translating them into color and light values, by transposing them into an autonomous painterly structure. The artist’s subjectivity – his particular perception – shape the painting process, and this is especially true of Corinth’s late still lifes. Their sensual beauty contains the moment of dissolution: though omnipresent, transience is held at bay by the painter’s lavish use of color. The notion of vanitas traditionally bound up with still-life painting finds its expression in a new painterly freedom of the ageing artist standing face to face with death.

 


[1] Quoted from Ulrich Luckhardt, Lovis Corinth und die Hamburger Kunsthalle, Ostfildern 1997.

[2] Kurt Winkler, “Ludwig Justi und der Expressionismus. Zur Musealisierung der Avantgarde,” in Kristina Kratz Kessemeier, Ludwig Justi. Kunst und Öffentlichkeit. Beiträge des Symposiums aus Anlass des 50. Todetages von Ludwig Justi (1876-1957), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Richard-Schöne-Gesellschaft (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, NF vol. 52), Berlin 2011.

[3] Quoted from Peter Kropmanns, Lovis Corinth. Ein Künstlerleben, Ostfildern 2008, p.109.

[4] Lovis Corinth, Selbstbiographie, 31 March 1925, Leipzig 1993.

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