"True art is practicing unreality." On Lovis Corinth

21 July 1858, the painter Lovis Corinth was born in Taipau (today Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad in western Russia), one of the most influential German impressionists and later expressionists.

"True art is practicing unreality." (Lovis Corinth)

Lovis Corinth’s “Das homerische Gelächter” (“Homeric Laughter”,1909) depicting the Greek gods’ glee about Ares and Aphrodite, caught in the act by her husband Hephaestus with an invisible net.

Actually wanting to become a soldier, a sailor or a peasant, Corinth finally ended up being a painter and thought it the best to reline that step with a formal education. His father thought the same, sold his estate and moved with his son to Königsberg (today Kaliningrad), where Corinth learned the fundamentals of being an artist. He travelled on then, when their was nothing more to gain from the resident teachers of the East Prussian province and studied in the art capitals of the second half of the 19th century, Munich, Antwerp and, of course, Paris and, trying to find his own style among the art trends of the day, became a very unsuccessful painter.

Lovis Corinth: "Die Hexen" (The Witches, 1897)

Lovis Corinth’s early and middle period of works is shaped by his struggle to express his vision to find a way between painting decorative surfaces and being as realistic as possible, mixing archetypes from the Scriptures and Classical mythology into an often brutal and erotic and pre-expressionistic potpourri that finally gained him acceptance, first among the avant-garde of the Munich and Berlin Secession movements and later on a more common level.

Lovis Corinth: "Odysseus im Kampf mit dem Bettler" (Ulysses Fighting the Beggar), 1903

By the turn of the century, Corinth was ranked among the crème of the German art scene, participating in renowned exhibitions and selling his paintings to influential museums when he suffered a stroke in 1911. Nursed back to health by his wife Charlotte, a former art student, painter in her own right and his favourite model, his art became even more temperamental, hectic and visionary. Having another unpleasant bout during the outbreak of the Great War, this time of German nationalism, he finally found serenity and something of fulfilment as an artist during the last years of his life, painting landscapes and still lifes on the shores of Walchensee in Bavaria.

Lovis Corinth: "Walchensee, Landschaft mit Kuh" (Landscape with Cow, 1921)

Married to a Jewess and painting quite racy sujets from time to time, reception of Corinth was almost immediately besmeared by the Nazis as “entartet” (degenerate), describing a former celebrated artist as a “butcher of the brush in the loamy-pallid bastardy of Berlin that had become completely Syrian”. His paintings were sold all over the world and are today mostly in private hands, his wife Charlotte left Germany already in 1931 before the place completely subverted to barbarism, painting and writing about her husband until she died in New York in 1967.

A bit of a visual showcase of Corinth’s work can be found here:


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