Max Klinger, (born February 18, 1857,
Leipzig, Germany—died July 5, 1920, near Naumburg), German painter,
sculptor, and engraver, whose art of symbol, fantasy, and dreamlike
situations belonged to the growing late 19th-century awareness of
the subtleties of the mind. Klinger’s visionary art has been linked
with that of Arnold Böcklin; the expression of his vivid, frequently
morbid imaginings, however, was not noted for technical excellence.
His work had a deep influence on Giorgio de Chirico.
Klinger, who had received some
training at the Karlsruhe art school, created a sensation at the
Berlin Academy exhibition in 1878 with two series of pen-and-ink
drawings—Series upon the Theme of Christ and Fantasies upon the
Finding of a Glove. Their daring originality caused an outburst of
indignation; nonetheless, the Glove series, on which Klinger’s
contemporary reputation is based, was bought by the Berlin National
Gallery. These 10 drawings (engraved in three editions from 1881)
tell a strange parable of a hapless young man and his obsessive
involvement with a woman’s elbow-length glove.
Portrait of Max Klinger by Emil Orlik, 1902
In 1887 The Judgment of Paris
caused another storm of protest because of its rejection of all
conventional attributes and its naively direct conception. In his
painting Klinger aimed at neither classic beauty nor modern truth
but at an impressive grimness with overtones of mysticism. His Pietà
(1890) and Christ in Olympus (1896) are also characteristic examples
of his work.
Klinger’s leanings toward the
gruesome and grotesque found further expression in his series of
etchings inspired by the work of Francisco de Goya, including
Deliverances of Sacrificial Victims Told in Ovid (1879), Fantasy on
Brahms (1894), Eve and the Future (1880), A Life (1884), and Of
Death (part 1, 1889; part 2, 1898–1909). In his use of the etching
needle he achieved a unique form of expressiveness.
Klinger’s late work was primarily
sculpture. Interested in materials and colour, he executed
polychromed nudes possessing a distinctly eerie quality, as well as
statues made of varicoloured materials in the manner of Greek
chryselephantine sculpture (e.g., Beethoven , Salome ,
and Cassandra ). His last project, a colossal monument to the
German composer Richard Wagner, remained unfinished at his death.