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Friday, July 21, 2017

Max Klinger

Work, Welfare, Beauty, 1919, Max Klinger
If I were to mention the name Max Klinger the first face to come to mind would be that of Jamie Farr who played Corporal Maxwell Klinger on the long-running TV series M*A*S*H (1972-83). But some 115 years earlier (1857), there was born another Max Klinger in Leipzig, Germany, who is now remembered as an outstanding painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer. Don't worry about confusing the two, other than the same name, they had virtually nothing in common. Max Klinger the artist was a tall, portly man with a long beard. Max Klinger the Corporal was a weasely little Arab-American of Lebanese descent who was totally fictional, and partial to heels, hose, and hilarious hats.  
See, he looks nothing at all like Corporal Klinger.
Max Klinger, the artist, was one of the last great "artist princes" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He began his studies i\In 1874 at the Grand Ducal Baden Art School in Karlsruhe, then move the following year to the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin. Klinger completed his studies with the evaluation "exceptional" and a silver medal. At that time his role model as an artist was Adolph Menzel. Klinger first exhibited his work publically in 1878 at the 52nd Academy Exhibition in Berlin. A year later Max Klinger opened a studio in Berlin, where he soon became a member of the Berlin Artists' Association. In 1883 Klinger received his first large commission, the decoration of the vestibule of Julius Albers' villa. That same year Klinger acquired a Paris studio so as to devote himself to study Goya and Daumier in the Louvre.

Being something of a musician himself, Klinger had an enduring respect and fascination for Beethoven, which manifested itself in his work.
While living in Paris as a student, Klinger focused on the project of creating a monument in honor of Ludwig von Beethoven. He claimed he had the first ideas for a sculpture while playing the piano. Thus, the first version of the later monument was born. Klinger then realized his idea in gypsum and colored it vividly. During the decades before 1900, Max Klinger used this model to design a large-format sculpture. He unveiled it for the first time in public at the exhibition of the Vienna Secession in 1902. Max Klinger also depicted Beethoven as a bare-breasted Olympic deity. In doing so, the sculptor alluded to the ancient way of depicting gods. The large coat that is wrapped around the composer's lower body and the sandals he wears were designed according to traditions of the ancient world. Beethoven sits on a richly decorated throne. At his feet rests an eagle, Jupiter's heraldic animal. Beethoven's hands are fisted, his facial expression seems concentrated and energetic.
The second etched image in the glove series Klinger titled, Action. A lost glove is found on an ice rink.
Klinger is best remembered for the ten etchings in the cycle "Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove" (above). The 1881 Glove cycle had been exhibited in the form of ink drawings at the Berliner Kunstverein as early as 1878, when Klinger was 21. There is a remarkable sense of whirling terror in these images, although they are quite static, sharp and fixed. The are based upon a series of dreams. Certainly, pictures by an artist such as Beardsley might convey hallucinatory smell of absinth or hashish, but they don't move. This and other Klinger works anticipate both the fetish theory of Freud and the psychedelic pictorial universe that emerged 90 years later.
The Plague, from the suite "Vom Tode II,"
1898-1909, Max Klinger
As a painter, Klinger believed that color images required a realism more freed from commentary, while etchings were more fit to express feelings and fantasies. In total Klinger made 16 serials, containing altogether 325 engravings. Among the most famous is, for instance, "Vom Tode", divided into two parts, the latter of which contains the nightmarish vision The Plague (above). Klinger's virtuosity is often emphasized along with his skill with not just one but a mix of several techniques. His style is realistic and fantastic to such an extent that his etchings and engravings appealed to both symbolists and surrealists. He came to influence artists as different as Edvard Munch and Max Ernst. Giorgio de Chirico admired Klinger for his special sensibility, as being one "who sees clearly into the past, into the present, and into himself."
Christ and the Sinful Women, 1884, Max Klinger
Elsa Asenijeff, 1900,
 Max Klinger
The Dresden Paintings Gallery became the first museum to buy one of his pictures (Pietà) when he was appointed professor at the Royal Academy of the Graphic Arts in Leipzig and was made a member of the newly founded Vienna Secession. The idea of the "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total work of art) formed Klinger's aesthetic preoccupation with literature, sculpture, painting and draw-ing as well as his interest in music. The graphic arts also figure prominently in the work of this versatile and extremely prolific artist. Max Klinger promoted the artistic dialogue of his day by founding the Villa Ro-mana and the Association of Annual Leipzig Exhibitions. The numerous distinctions the sculptor was awarded (being made a Knight of the Pour le mérite order, and an honorary member of the Stockholm Academy) not only attest to his success but also indicate the major role he played in introducing Modern Art to Germany. For the most part of his life Klinger was officially a bachelor, still he had a relationship for twenty years with author Elsa Asenijeff (left), whom he met when he was 41 years old. Max Klinger did not marry until one year before he died in July, 1920.

Crucifixion of Christ, 1890, Max Klinger


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