Lovis Corinth often cloaked allusions to contemporary politics in historical dress. In these thirteen lithographs for an illustrated edition of Friedrich Schiller's play Wilhelm Tell (William Tell), Corinth addressed individual freedom and political rebellion—highly relevant issues in the tumultuous years following the end of the German empire—through the legend of the Swiss national hero who fought against tyranny. The prints are typical of Corinth's late expressive style, in which he sacrificed figurative legibility for emotional drama. His rapid, sketchy approach in Der Tell-Schuss (Tell's shot), for example, underscores the urgency of the famous moment when Tell must shoot an apple off his son's head for failing to pay homage to a symbol of the emperor. The image, a blur of warm, exuberant color, conveys the swirling rush of fear, anger, and determination that focused Tell's resolve to save his child and take revenge on the unjust ruler.
Corinth knew Schiller's play well. His father had given him a copy for his twelfth birthday. The artist had passed that copy down to his own son, Thomas, in 1914, and he consulted it when making these prints after visiting Switzerland in 1923.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.