Reprising a theme he had first addressed during World War I, Alfred Kubin began working on the twenty-four ink drawings for Ein neuer Totentanz (A new dance of death) in fall 1937 and completed them in March 1938, the same month the Nazis annexed his homeland, Austria. It was not until after the war, in 1947, that the drawings were published as a book. Kubin’s fantastic and grotesque images of death resonated deeply with postwar Austrian society.
Kubin hoped that “the beauty of [the drawings’] design would remove the fear of death.” Here death, although shown to be omnipresent, lurking in both the city and the country, is not violent or gruesome. Instead, a skeletal figure pokes fun at a strongman, goes ice skating, and patiently waits for the conclusion of a bar fight. Death even claims a draftsman who bears Kubin’s own features.
Kubin was an extraordinarily prolific draftsman, and he made more than 2,300 illustrations, covers, and vignettes for approximately 170 books, including several he wrote himself.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.