Max Klinger was born in
Leipzig on 18 February. After attending the Burgerschule and the
Realschule in Leipzig, in 1874 he enrolled at the Kunstschule in
Karlsruhe, but a year later he moved to Berlin to work under Gussow. At
the Berlin Academy show in 1878, he exhibited Strollers, the Consigli per un concorso sul tema ‘Cristo’ and the preparatory drawings for a series of etchings entitled A Glove,
which were greatly appreciated by the critics. In 1879, he was in
Brussels as a student of Emile-Charles Wauters, and between then and
1883 he produced many series of etchings: Schizzi all’acquaforte, Salvation of Ovid’s Victims, Eve and the Future, Intermezzi, Cupid and Psyche, A Glove, Dramas and Four Landscapes.
After a period in Berlin (1881), he was commissioned to decorate Villa
Albers in Steglitz (1883). He moved to Paris in 1885, where he stayed
until 1886. In this period he alternated between painting and
sculpture, preparing the plaster model for Beethoven and the first version of New Salome.
In 1887, he spent time first in Berlin, where he met Böcklin, and then
in Leipzig. The following year he decided to make a trip to Italy,
going first to Rome, from where he went out on trips to Tivoli and the
surrounding hills. He went to Naples, Paestum and Pompeii between 1889
and 1890. In 1891, during his second visit to the south, he decided to
visit Sicily. After returning to Leipzig in 1893, he sculpted New Salome and exhibited the Crucifixion
in Dresden. Following the success of his solo show in Leipzig in 1894,
Klinger began travelling once again in Europe. First he went to Vienna,
where he met Brahms and dedicated a work to him, the Brahms Fantasy,
and then he moved on to Greece in search of marble for his statues. In
1897, he was appointed Professor at the Academy of Graphic Arts in
Leipzig and became a corresponding member of the Viennese Secession.
Work on the large-scale statue of Beethoven occupied Klinger for a
number of years: after having chosen the marble, he began preparation
on the fusion in bronze of the throne in 1900, which was completed in
Paris the following year. At the beginning of the new century he
devoted himself almost exclusively to sculpture; in 1903 he produced Diana Surprised by Actaeon and in 1909 he completed his monument to Brahms for Hamburg. In the same year he completed the second edition of On Death, followed by the final major graphic series entitled Tent, which was published in 1915. Klinger died on 14 July 1920 at Grossjena in the house that he had purchased in 1903.
Klinger did this small self-portrait in the period when he was attending art school in Karlsruhe to satisfy the wishes of his father, a cultured businessman. The figure leaves considerable space to the representation of the studio, and the workshop is suffused with natural light shining in through the large window. The tawny-haired artist is intently copying an ancient text in obedience to the canons of an academic education. Years later the writer Max Osborn recalled the appearance of Klinger, whose flaming hair was similar to the centaurs painted by Arnold Böcklin, the painter who more than any other influenced Klinger’s poetics.
Bear and Elf (from Intermezzi, opus IV)
Unlike other graphic cycles of works – which Klinger sequenced as musicians do using the term ‘opus’ – where the artist develops a story, the Schizzi all'acquaforte (opus I) and the Intermezzi (opus IV) are a group of loose pieces without a thematic connection. The Intermezzi in particular, which were realised during work on more important and challenging projects, are creative interludes in which the artist gave free rein to fantasy, allegories and oneiric images without being required to respond to any given narrative content. Here the fairy-tale scene has a decorative style reminiscent of Japanese prints.
Rescue (from A Glove, opus VI)
This is one of the ten etchings comprising the series A Glove, which appeared in Munich in 1881. They follow a group of pen drawings which narrate the symbolic story of a glove lost by a woman while skating, subsequently picked up by a man who keeps it for himself. From this moment on the glove comes to represent the woman who has been loved and lost, and becomes the ‘protagonist’ of the following pieces – next to the bed of the man whose dreams it inhabits, falling into the sea, being rescued and placed on a rock, and so on. This is the most well-known work by Klinger and the one that established his reputation. Concealed within the figure of the young lover is Klinger himself, and the whole story seems to be a metaphor of his fruitful and fortunate artistic development.
Homage (from A Love, opus X)
This is the first work in a cycle dedicated to the painter Arnold Böcklin, whose paintings based on classical myths and Nordic scenes were a powerful influence on Klinger. Seven copies were made of this series of ten etchings, first published in Berlin in 1887. Three further editions followed in subsequent years. The subject is a woman who, from her first encounter with love and life, moves from the shame of the loss of purity through suffering to her final, tragic end. The motif of the woman as a symbol of sacrifice and hence destined to die had already been treated by Klinger in the series A Life (opus VIII) and in this case was originally intended to bear the subtitle Dramas.
When he arrived in Rome together with the painter Karl-Stauffer-Bern in February 1888, Klinger rented a studio in via Claudia 9, situated in front of the Colliseum and from where he executed this painting. The large balcony on the sixth floor of the building allowed Klinger to fully appreciate the imposing appearance of the Colliseum while also affording a view of monuments and vegetable gardens laid out in a deep perspective as far as the horizon. There is a very effective use of light, with the ochre and earth colours of the Colliseum reflecting onto other monuments, including the Arch of Constantine which can be seen in profile. The sky is an intense blue colour typical of the Roman landscape.
Accompanied by his friend Stauffer-Bern, Klinger made many trips to the countryside around Rome, including visits to the Colli Albani. He saw Nemi for the first time in the summer of 1888. The landscape produced by Klinger appears transformed by a mythical vision of the location. Once again the influence of the “Roman German” group of painters, especially Böcklin, is clearly evident. This can be seen in the dark areas of the painting suddenly illuminated by incandescent light. Even the most realistic element, the poplar in the foreground to the right, has somewhat fantastic connotations, and through the luminous reflections of the small leaves it distributes a shower of light across the canvas. The Symbolist aura of this work is further enhanced by the blue shading of the sky, periwinkle blue at the top and turquoise at the summit of the mountain, which reveals Klinger’s assimilation of the painting of Odilon Redon.
Klinger had loved the music of Johannes Brahms ever since his youth. He had already dedicated Cupid and Psyche, opus V to him and now, to mark his sixtieth birthday, he paid further tribute to him with this cycle of free interpretations based on his music. Klinger worked on this series of 41 lithographs and etchings for five years, attempting to evoke in a powerful, visionary fashion the emotions aroused by Brahms’ music. The result is a perfect union of images and music, marvellous fantasies that perfectly capture the solemnity of his music. The first edition of the series was published in 1894, the year in which he went to Vienna to meet Brahms.Iconography
In all likelihood this depicts a Brazilian woman of rare beauty who had smitten Berlin society in 1878. Klinger himself was not immune and dedicated to her the drawings for the series A Glove (subsequently etched in 1881), which narrates a story of unrequited love. His passion for this lady lasted some time, given that in the 1890s, while he was in Italy, he used her as inspiration for some of his female portraits. Here the figure stands out before a Roman view in which it is possible to see the river Tiber, and there is a touch of melancholy in the gaze, suggestive of a distant and irretrievably lost memory. The publication of a copy of this painting in the magazine “Jugend” in 1906 made him famous.
Once again the painting of Arnold Böcklin was an important point of reference for Klinger, and here there is a direct citation of Böcklin’s Triton and Nereid (1873-74). However, the two bodies in Klinger’s interpretation of the theme are characterised by a voluptuous and profoundly sensual and carnal passion that seems to sweep up the surrounding landscape into a whirling, wave-like movement. The mythical figures are humanised and their feelings become an expression of nature. The chromatic and light variations also contribute to this “natural” and primitive rendering of amorous passion.