Lovis Corinth, Ecce Homo, 1925
Ja! Ich weiß, woher ich stamme!
Ungesättigt gleich der Flamme
Glühe und verzehr' ich mich.
Licht wird Alles, was ich fasse,
Kohle Alles, was ich lasse:
Flamme bin ich sicherlich.
(Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 1882)
Lovis Corinth was born in 1858 in the town of Tapiau in East Prussia (now Russia), the son of a tanner. Corinth grew up in a rural setting, with little or no exposure to works of art. From a very early age, however, he enjoyed sketching and painting. At the age of nine he was enrolled first in the public school in nearby Königsberg (today Kaliningrad) and then at the Königsberg Academy of Art.
Lovis Corinth, Nana, 1911
Corinth continued his artistic training in Munich (1880-1882), and then in Antwerp and Paris (1884-1886), where he studied with Adolphe William Bouguereau. During this period Corinth remained uninfluenced by the "modern" painters of the day, such as Manet and Monet; he preferred instead the naturalistic style of Wilhelm Leibl, who had been a pupil of Gustave Courbet. He also admired works by Rubens in the Louvre in Paris and by Rembrandt.
Lovis Corinth, Cain, 1917
Corinth returned to Germany in 1891 and continued his painting career. He became a part of the art world of Berlin at the turn of the century and in 1901 he opened a school for painters there. His first student, Charlotte Berend, became his wife two years later. Other students of Corint were Magnus Zeller and Jacob Steinhardt.
Lovis Corinth, Salome II 1899
In the first decade of the 20th century, Corinth's palette became brighter and he began to employ the freer brush-work characteristic of the German Impressionists, represented by Max Liebermann. In addition to his landscapes and figure compositions, he achieved great success as a portrait painter, and his services were much in demand. Corinth was elected chairman of the Berlin Secession, to which he had belonged since 1899, in 1911. In that same year he completed 61 oils, as well as many drawings, etchings, and lithographs, and all of his work was selling well. He was named president of the Berlin Secession in 1915, an artist association with prominent members like Max Beckmann, Lyonel Feininger and Max Slevogt.
Lovis Corinth, Portrait of Hermann Struck, 1915. In 1915, Struck was thirty-nine. A painter, engraver and art critic, he posed for his friend Corinth wearing the uniform of the officer he had become. Neither the subject nor the painter give in to the exalted belligerency of the moment. Despite the fact that Corinth paints with emphatic touches, he keeps his distance from all forms of expressionism, in order, to depict the worry, the melancholy and the unease of the artist in his soldier's uniform. After the war, Struck left Germany where life had become too distressing for him, and settled in Palestine.
At the end of 1911, Corinth suffered a massive stroke which threatened to end his career. His left side was paralyzed, but through great perserverance and determination he was able to resume painting the following year. From 1912 until his death in 1925 Corinth continued to work and to struggle against his increasing debility. He produced some 500 oils and about 1,000 prints, in addition to drawings and watercolors. He painted numerous self-portraits, and made a habit of painting one self every year on his birthday as a means of self-examination.
Lovis Corinth, Self-portrait, 1896
In Corinth's late work expressive elements dominate, reflecting his own personal struggles against his illness and, perhaps, an increased perception of the world around him. He created numerous portraits and self-portraits, notable for their profound psychological insights, and his work influenced later generations of German artists. Corinth died in July 1925 while on a visit to Holland to see paintings by Rembrandt and Frans Hals. One of his most famous paintings, Ecce Homo, shown here at the beginning, was done earlier in the year.
Lovis Corinth, Samson Blinded, 1912
Lovis Corinth's work was condemned by the Nazis as "degenerate", and 295 of his works were removed from German museums (most of them were sold to Switzerland). The Nazi propagandist Alfred Rosenberg denounced him as "Butcher of the brush, dissolved in the syrian mud of Berlin". Today, Corinth is seen as a major artist whose paintings combined elements from the Old Masters he admired, such as Rembrandt, with late 19th-century Impressionism to create, in his late work, a fully modern idiom. His paintings, drawings, and prints are included in numerous public and private collections throughout the world.
You can see many more of his paintings in high resolution at Zeno.