PHASES IN THE CREATIVE OEUVRE
OF LUDWIG MEIDNER
Early work 1905-1906
The early work includes atmospheric landscapes and cityscapes in the style of French Impressionism, which Meidner had got to know and been able to study both in Berlin (Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer) and during a one-year stay in Paris. Meidner combined plein-air painting and Fauvist coloration.
When he returned to Berlin, he expanded his range of motifs to include squares, streets, cafes and suburban views, as well as buildings that stood for technical progress (gasometer, factory chimney stack, etc.) His drawings have soft flowing lines, the paintings with a large and expansive application of muted colours, finely nuanced but with no coloristic effects.
Between Apocalypse and Revelation, 1911-1920
Meidner broke radically with his painting to date and began integrating elements of Italian Futurism, French Cubism and the Orphism of Robert Delaunay. Architecture broken down prismatically into geometric elements and collapsing lines rendering different perspectives give rise to dynamic and dramatic pictorial effects.
Buildings and cityscapes are no longer depicted as static, orderly architecture, but make up a threatening apocalyptic scenario.
With the foundation of the artists’ group Pathetiker (1911) Meidner underscored the programmatic aim of his art:
“to give the paintings a grand, stimulating theme and not just satisfy the aesthetic needs of a small, elite stratum of society”.
The corresponding themes were man’s isolation in the big city, the flood, the prophet, the end of the world, war.
Meidner’s expressionist style is also evident in a series of wonderful self-portraits and portraits of artist-friends and famous people from the cultural scene in Berlin. These consolidated Meidner’s reputation as an outstanding portraitist.
Painting as Prayer, 1920-1938
After the First World War, Meidner’s worldview changed from being that of the revolutionary atheist to that of the religious orthodox Jew. This change is also reflected in his thematic references and in the stylistic direction of his work. The numerous self-portraits that characterized his work until then, become religious avowals of faith made as a Jewish person praying, as disguised prophet or a scribe.
The agile, expressionist thrust of the brushstroke settles down, the line, especially in his works on paper, becomes more detailed, finer. The artist achieves peace and serenity in his work. Meidner takes leave of apocalyptic, pathetic formulae of the war and pre-war years.
Exile in England, 1939-1952
Branded in Germany as a Jewish artist whose works were defamed as “degenerate”, in exile in England Meidner found new forms of expression that, to a large degree, have not yet been fully analysed. The drawing and the watercolour are the dominant forms. Socio-critical cycles, sometimes even involving comical, humourous representations, indicate an intellectual proximity to the work of William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier.
Late work, 1952-1966
Meidner returned to Germany from exile in England in 1952. He initially found refuge in Frankfurt and then moved to the small town of Hofheim in the Taunus region, where he spent, as he wrote, “his happiest years”, before finally moving to Darmstadt (1963).
During this period he devoted himself almost exclusively to painting in oil – a form of expression he could not pursue during the war years due to a lack of oil paint – and to drawing. His motifs included portraits of visitors, friends and pupils, and also prominent persons from the world of politics, as well as still lifes. In view of his explicitly naturalist way of painting, he became marginalized due to the predominantly abstract avant-garde in German art after the war. By contrast, however, people began to focus increasingly on his unique expressionist work.
He received numerous honours and public acknowledgements as an outstanding representative of German Expressionism. Ludwig Meidner died in 1966.
Back to top
Click on images to enlarge
Rue Lamarck in Montmartre, 1906
Watercolour, 44,5x33 cm
Gasometer in Berlin-
Oil on canvas,
The Corner House (Villa Kochmann, Dresden), 1913
Oil on canvas on cardboard,
Apocalyptic Landscape, 1912
Oil on canvas, 94x109 cm
Bombarding a City, 1913
Ink, tempera and lead pencil on paper, 45x56 cm
On the Barricades, 1912
Oil on canvas, 80 x 116 cm
from the portfolio "Streets and Cafés", 1918
Photoengraving after a drawing, 37 x 29 cm
Portrait Uli Nimptsch, 1919
The Cry Before Daybreak, 1920
Watercolours and gouache, over lead pencil on cardboard, 64.4 x 50.5 cm
Man’s Head with a Tallit, 1929
Black chalk on paper, 80.5 x 56.6 cm
The Race, 1947
Charcoal / watercolour, 55.9 x 70 cm
Young Woman wearing a Yellow Blouse, 1962
Oil on board, 80 x 60 cm
Oil on board, 69 x 52.5 cm