In both subject and form, Althoff's figurative drawings allude to an ambiguous past. Although Althoff's work is clearly influenced by German history, the costume, locations, and facial features in his drawings only vaguely imply a period before the twentieth century. Despite references to German folk and fairy tales, the Catholic Rhineland, Romanticism, Expressionism, and Biedermeier design, the work remains enigmatic.
This drawing is part of a group of figurative works depicting brooding males engaged in potentially dangerous or malevolent activities. Here Althoff depicts two young men dressed in unidentifiable historical costume, their faces marked with delicate curving scars. One grips the other tightly across the shoulder as they rush through a red, black, and blue haze pierced by a street lamp. Back arched, mouth wide open, a third figure laughs hysterically in the distance. Like other works by Althoff, this work is eerily beautiful, demonstrating the artist’s command of line, color, and form. Although the meaning of the scene remains a mystery, it is clear that some damage has taken place and more is likely to follow—a macabre sense of an unsettled past haunts the image.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 198.