Ernst Barlach. The Dead Day (Der tote Tag). 1912 (prints executed 1910-11)
Ernst Barlach

The Dead Day (Der tote Tag)

1912 (prints executed 1910-11)
Not on view
Author
the artist
Medium
Portfolio of twenty-six lithographs (incomplete; complete portfolio comprises 27 lithographs)
Dimensions
composition (see child records): dimensions vary; sheet: 20 1/16 x 26 3/16" (51 x 66.5 cm); overall: 20 9/16 x 26 5/8 x 13/16" (52.3 x 67.7 x 2 cm)
Publisher
Pan-Presse (Verlag Paul Cassirer)
Edition
210 (including 60 signed on Japan paper and 150 on Van Gelder Zonen- "Bütten" [this ex.])
Credit
Transferred from the Museum Library
Object number
563.1949.1-26
Type
Portfolio
Department
Drawings and Prints

In Ernst Barlach's play Der tote Tag (The dead day), a mother's selfishness plunges the world into darkness. The mother is visited by a blind beggar who has come to lead her son to a destiny that would benefit all mankind. Not wanting to lose her son, she kills the mystical horse which was to spirit him away. The horse's death causes the sun not to rise the following morning. Racked with guilt and despair, the mother takes her own life; her son, even then unable to free himself from her, soon follows. Rich with allusions to Christian and Nordic mythology, the play and its accompanying illustrations explore man's relationship to God, the key theme throughout Barlach's printmaking, sculpture, and writing.

Der tote Tag was the first of seven plays Barlach wrote and illustrated for Paul Cassirer, his close friend, gallerist, and publisher. For the illustrations, Cassirer persuaded Barlach to make lithographs, the artist's first proper work in the medium. These prints capture the ominous and bleak atmosphere of the play, while spotlighting incidents—such as the mother slicing open the horse's throat—that are not detailed in the text. Barlach's figures share the same bulky monumentality and timelessness as his sculptures, which were inspired by Gothic art and Russian peasants.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Feldman; sold to the Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, c. 1935; transferred from the Library to the Print Department, 1949

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
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Pictured above: Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 2 (detail). 1914. Oil on canvas, 64 1/8 x 48 3/8" (162.6 x 122.7 cm). Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund (by exchange). © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource