In Totentanz (Dance of death) Lovis Corinth modernizes a theme that German printmakers had explored since the sixteenth century, the inevitability of death. Corinth made these five prints in the last years of his life. Depicting a skeletal figure visiting him, his friends, and his family, the artist personalized the experience of dying. The portfolio exemplifies the highly expressionistic style he developed after having a stroke in 1911.
In the opening print, Tod und Künstler (Death and the artist), Death looms over and trains his empty eye sockets on Corinth, who looks up, knowingly, from the print he is etching. On Corinth's wrist, evoking the ceaseless passage of time, is a watch given to him by his beloved wife, Charlotte, who herself appears in Tod und Weib (Death and the woman), cradling Death in her arms. Death looks small and fragile next to Corinth's teenage son in Tod und Jüngling (Death and the youth), unlike the robust figure who casts an ominous shadow over the artist's father in Tod und Greis (Death and the old man). The final print shows the artist Hermann Struck—who had tutored Corinth in printmaking and encouraged him to explore drypoint and the other techniques used in these prints—and his wife, Mally, confronting Death together.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.