Lovis Corinth (21 July 1858 –
17 July 1925) was a German painter and printmaker whose
mature work realized a synthesis of impressionism and
Corinth studied in Paris
and Munich, joined the Berlin Secession group, later
succeeding Max Liebermann as the group's president. His
early work was naturalistic in approach. Corinth was
initially antagonistic towards the expressionist movement,
but after a stroke in 1911 his style loosened and took on
many expressionistic qualities. His use of color became more
vibrant, and he created portraits and landscapes of
extraordinary vitality and power. Corinth's subject matter
also included nudes and biblical scenes.
Corinth was born Franz Heinrich Louis on 21 July 1858 in
Tapiau, in Prussia. The son of a tanner, he displayed a
talent for drawing as a child, and in 1876 he went to study
painting in the academy of Königsberg. In 1880 he attended
the Academy of Fine Art in Munich, which rivaled Paris as
the avant-garde art center in Europe at the time. There he
was influenced by Courbet and the Barbizon school, through
their interpretation by the Munich artists Wilhelm Leibl and
Wilhelm Trübner. Louis then traveled to Antwerp and then
Paris where he studied under William-Adolphe Bouguereau at
the Académie Julian. He returned to Königsberg in 1888 when
he adopted the name "Lovis Corinth".
In 1891, Corinth returned to Munich, but in 1892 he
abandoned the Munich Academy and joined the Munich
Secession. In 1894 he joined the Free Association, and in
1899 he participated in an exhibition organized by the
Berlin Secession. These nine years in Munich were not his
most productive, and he was perhaps better known for his
ability to drink large amounts of red wine and champagne.
Corinth moved to Berlin in
1900, and had a one-man exhibition at a gallery owned by
Paul Cassirer. In 1902 at the age of 43, he opened a school
of painting for women and married his first student,
Charlotte Berend, some 20 years his junior. Charlotte was
his youthful muse, his spiritual partner, and the mother of
his two children. She had a profound influence on him, and
family life became a major theme in his art.
In December 1911, he
suffered a stroke, and was partially paralyzed on his left
side. Thereafter he walked with a limp, and his hands
displayed a chronic tremor. With the help of his wife,
within a year he was painting again with his right hand. His
disability inspired in the artist an intense interest in the
simple, intimate things of daily life. In the summer of
1919, for example, he produced a cycle of casual etchings of
his family in their country home. It was also at this time
that landscapes became a significant part of his oeuvre.
These landscapes were set at the Walchensee, a lake in the
Bavarian Alps where Corinth owned a house. Their lively
picturing, in bright colors, tempt many to consider the
Walchensee series as his best work. From 1915–25, he served
as President of the Berlin Secession.
Corinth explored every print technique except aquatint; he
favored drypoint and lithography. He created his first
etching in 1891 and his first lithograph in 1894. He
experimented with the woodcut medium but made only 12
woodcuts, all of them between 1919–1924. He was quite
prolific, and in the last 15 years of his life he produced
more than 900 graphic works, including 60 self-portraits.
The landscapes he created between 1919 and 1925 are perhaps
the most desirable images of his entire graphic oeuvre. He
painted numerous self-portraits, and made a habit of
painting one every year on his birthday as a means of
self-examination. In many of his self-portraits he assumed
guises such as an armored knight (The Victor, 1910), or
Samson (The Blinded Samson, 1912). A self-portrait of 1924
is in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
Honors and death
On 15 March 1921 Corinth received an honorary doctorate from
the University of Königsberg.
In 1925, he traveled to the
Netherlands to view the works of his favorite Dutch masters.
He caught pneumonia and died in Zandvoort.
In 1910 Corinth had donated the painting Golgatha for the
altar of the church of his birthplace, Tapiau. At the end of
the Second World War, when the Red Army invaded East
Prussia, this painting disappeared without trace. Tapiau was
among the few East Prussian places not devastated by the
war, which makes it likely that the painting was looted
rather than destroyed.
In 2007, the German city of
Hanover returned a painting by Corinth to the heirs of
Jewish collector Curt Glaser who sold it in 1933 to fund his
escape from the Nazis. The painting, Romische Campagna
(Roman Landscape) (1914) was handed to Glaser's heirs,
represented by his U.S.-based niece and her daughter.
The house where Corinth was
born is still in the town, which is now Gvardeysk,
Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.
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