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German Expressionism

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GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM THEMES: PORTRAITS

Portraits

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<i>Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead</i>

Käthe Kollwitz

Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead

(1910, published c. 1946/1948)

Kollwitz made this self-portrait as a birthday present for her husband Karl who, along with her sons, claimed not to see any resemblance. One of a large number of self-portraits she created over the course of her career, it is an image of brooding introspection verging on melancholy—attitudes that permeate her oeuvre overall.
<i>Mrs. N. (Mrs. Ada Nolde)</i>

Emil Nolde

Mrs. N. (Mrs. Ada Nolde)

(1911)

Nolde made this drypoint of his wife, Ada, using an iron plate that corroded easily, leaving behind a pattern of random pits and pockmarks. Nolde’s closely cropped portrait presents an intimate, tender look at his beloved wife and muse.
<i>Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat

1909

Kokoschka removed art historians Hans Tietze and Erika Tietze-Conrat from the everyday realities of fin-de-siècle Vienna, setting them within a fiery, electrically charged atmosphere that focused all attention on their vibrating hands and tense psychological state.
<i>Portrait of Arthur Roessler</i> from <i>The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele</i>

Egon Schiele

Portrait of Arthur Roessler from The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele

(1914, published 1922)

Arthur Roessler, an important Viennese art critic and Schiele’s key supporter, encouraged Schiele to try printmaking, and even provided the money and materials required for Schiele’s experiments in the new medium.
<i>Girl with High Hat</i>
LEFT

Erich Heckel

Girl with High Hat

1913

These are two examples from a large number of works by Heckel depicting his girlfriend (and, after 1915, wife) Sidi Riha, who was convalescing from a long illness when these prints were made. In the drypoint Girl with High Hat she appears in a fashionable outfit in Heckel’s studio. By contrast, the stark woodcut Girl’s Head captures the psychological and physical tolls of her illness.
<i>Evening (Self-Portrait with the Battenbergs)</i> from <i>Faces</i>

Max Beckmann

Evening (Self-Portrait with the Battenbergs) from Faces

(1916, published 1919)

In a print Beckmann called one of his best works, the artist appears tucked between Ugi and Fridel Battenberg, friends with whom he often spent time in Frankfurt. Beckmann himself noted the “latent erotic mood” that surges through this image. Ugi is absorbed in his drink, unaware of (or merely ignoring) the sexual tension between his wife and friend.
<i>Portrait of Marie-Luise Binswanger</i>
LEFT

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Portrait of Marie-Luise Binswanger

1917

The elegant figure Marie-Luise Binswanger, the stepmother of Kirchner’s psychiatrist, fills the irregularly shaped woodcut. Ludwig Schames was an art dealer and a major promoter of Kirchner’s work; the nude behind him might be one of Kirchner’s own wood sculptures.
<i>Portrait of a Man</i>

Erich Heckel

Portrait of a Man

(1919)

Heckel inscribes the traumas of the war years and the uncertainties of the postwar period onto his own troubled face in this contemplative self-portrait. The contrasting colors heighten the feeling of dissonance.
<i>Self-Portrait with Burin</i>

Ludwig Meidner

Self-Portrait with Burin

(1920)

Meidner exaggerates his head, eyes, and hands in this self-portrait, focusing attention on the sites of creative and artistic power. He holds a burin, a tool used in etching, and appears poised to work.
<i>Maria Orska</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Maria Orska

(1922)

Kokoschka conveys the vitality and monumental personality of Maria Orska with quick lines that realistically depict her lively smile and swirl of hair. Orska was a famous actress who appeared in a number of theater productions by Max Reinhardt—who had directed several of Kokoschka’s plays as well.
<i>J. B. Neumann</i>

Otto Dix

J. B. Neumann

1922

Dix sympathetically portrays J. B. Neumann, founder of the seminal Berlin gallery and publishing house that bore his name. Unlike many other publishers who flourished during the print boom of the early 1920s, Neumann made little profit off his love of art and books.
<i>Self-Portrait with Palette</i>

Lovis Corinth

Self-Portrait with Palette

April 1924

Painted just a year before his death, this self-portrait showcases the loose, exuberant brushwork and passionate coloring that characterized Corinth’s late work, which embraced the Expressionist tendency toward emotional effects.
<i>The Poet Max Herrmann-Neisse</i>

George Grosz

The Poet Max Herrmann-Neisse

1927

Grosz details the lines, bumps, veins, gnarls, and ruddiness of his friend Max Herrmann-Neisse’s head and hands, placing him almost within arm’s reach. Grosz and Herrmann-Neisse, a poet and Berlin’s leading cabaret critic, shared the same politics, sense of humor, and cynical outlook.
<i>Call of Death</i>

Käthe Kollwitz

Call of Death

(c. 1937)

Through self-portraits made over her entire career, Kollwitz recorded her anxieties as a mother and her grief as a witness to the devastation of poverty, war, and social injustice. After all these trials, including the loss of her son Peter in World War I, she shows herself in this print finally ready to yield to Death, whose extended hand is within her grasp.
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