Ludwig MeidnerGerman, 1884–1966
Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011
Painter, printmaker, writer. Gained renown after 1912 for street scenes celebrating the frenetic dynamism of Berlin, including series of "apocalyptic landscapes" that prophetically envisioned the city in catastrophic collapse. Cofounded Expressionist group Die Pathetiker, committed to works of Nietzschean pathos and drama, with Jakob Steinhardt and Richard Janthur; they exhibited at Herwarth Walden's Galerie Der Sturm in 1912. His atelier became a weekly meeting point for Berlin's artistic and literary avant-garde, including Conrad Felixmüller and George Grosz. Adamantly antiwar, but was drafted in 1915. Did not see combat; served as a French translator. Afterwards, joined various left-wing artists' organizations.
In printmaking, focused overwhelmingly on portraiture, including forty self-portraits, many of them drypoints, showcasing his nervous, vibrating line. Nearly half of his 415 prints made between 1919 and 1922; all but gave up printmaking after 1925. Worked with range of major publishers, including Paul Cassirer, J. B. Neumann, Fritz Gurlitt, Kurt Wolff, and Euphorion. Was also active as a writer, publishing articles in left-wing journals as well as two books combining his own prose poems and illustrations in 1918 and 1920.
As a Jew, suffered extensive persecution by Nazis. Lost teaching position in Berlin, had eighty-four works removed from public collections, and was labeled "degenerate." Fled to Britain in 1939, where he spent three years in an internment camp. Returned to Germany after World War II.
Breuer, Gerda, ed. Ludwig Meidner: Zeichner, Maler, Literat, 1884–1966. 2 vols. Stuttgart: G. Hatje, 1991.
Eliel, Carol S. The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner. Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989.
Miesel, Victor H. Ludwig Meidner: An Expressionist Master. Exh. cat. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1978.