The central preoccupations in Max Klinger’s printmaking career—love, death, and fantasy—appear in Ein Handschuh (A glove), his first narrative sequence. Klinger meticulously depicts the real and the imaginary with hallucinatory clarity, casting himself as protagonist. At a skating rink in Berlin, Klinger is seen eyeing a beautiful young woman; he swoops down to retrieve her dropped glove. This intimate and potently sexualized object triggers a series of elaborate visions of longing and loss, conveyed through dreamlike distortions of scale and jarring juxtapositions. As desire threatens to engulf Klinger, the fetishized glove takes on a life of its own. It assumes the attributes of Venus, born of sea foam and driving a shell chariot. An outsize version torments him in his sleep, recalling Francisco de Goya’s prints. Klinger’s grasp on the glove remains elusive, and a fantastic creature finally spirits the object away.
In 1878 Klinger, just twenty-one years old, debuted at the Berlin Royal Academy of the Arts’ annual exhibition with a cycle of drawings that, encouraged by art dealer and engraver Hermann Sagert, he etched two years later and published in 1881 as Ein Handschuh. This is one of thirteen print portfolios he created during his long and distinguished career.
For Klinger, prints were an ideal medium for examining contemporary social issues and scenes from his own imagination—for exploring what he called the “dark side of life.” More specifically, he found black-and-white prints, with their lack of color and thus their distance from everyday life, to be well suited to his subjective view of the world. Klinger’s prints were an enormous influence on later artists and printmakers, including Käthe Kollwitz, German Expressionists, and Surrealists.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.