19th Century

Corinth and Slevogt




A native of East Prussia, Lovis Corinth (1858 – 1925) studied at the Munich Academy from 1876 to 1880; after honing his skills in Antwerp, Paris, Berlin, and Königsberg, he returned to the Bavarian capital. In 1892, he was a founding member of the Munich Secession. He moved to Berlin in 1900 and became president of the local Secession. In 1903, he married his student, the painter Charlotte Berend. After 1918, he spent as much time as possible in Urfeld on Lake Walchen in Upper Bavaria.

Corinth was one of the most versatile German painters around the turn of the century. The evolution of his art begins with a richly figured and almost crude Naturalism and passes through an Impressionist phase to mature into a form of Expressionism in which mythological themes recede as the portrait, the landscape, and the still life gradually become the dominant genres.

Self Portrait with Skeleton, created in 1896, shows the artist at the age of thirty-eight. The picture is the first in a series of self portraits Corinth would usually paint on July 21, his birthday, a habit he maintained without interruption from 1900 to his death. Corinth does not present himself in the act of painting, instead turning to face the beholder with a stern and morose gaze, his body a massive physical presence. A skeleton hanging behind his back seems to look over his shoulder. A standard piece of furniture in nineteenth-century artists’ studios, it is here also an allusion to the traditional memento mori.

Max Slevogt (1868 – 1932), the second great German Naturalist and Impressionist after Corinth, lived in Munich for most of the time between 1885 and 1897 before settling in Neukastel, Rhenish Palatinate. His Danae was removed from the exhibition of the Munich Secession in 1899 because the organizers feared that the realist depiction of a non-classical female body in a scene from classical mythology might cause a scandal.