Albin Egger-Lienz, Self-Portrait, 1923
Albin Egger-Lienz (1868-1926) was born near Lienz, Tyrol. His first teacher was his father who was a church painter. From 1884 to 1993 Egger-Lienz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he was influenced by Franz Defregger and French painter Jean-François Millet. From 1894, Egger-Lienz worked as a free artist in Munich. In 1899, he moved to Vienna and married Laura von Möllwals. He was co-founder of the Hagenbund, an Austrian group of artists that was active until 1930.
In 1909, Egger-Lienz became a member of the Vienna Secession, but quit his membership seven years later. One year later, he was proposed a professorship at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. This was however prevented by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (whose assassination in Sarajewo was one of the causes of WW1) because of Egger Lienz' membership in the Secession, and because his above shown painting The Dance of Death Anno Nine (which had been shown in an exhibition for the 60th jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph), was considered to be not patriotic enough, and, given the advanced age of the honored Kaiser, could not be regarded as "pious".
In Egger-Lienz' oeuvre, the motif of death occupies a central position. In The Dance of Death, Death leads on the group of farmers. In the background is the Tyrolean struggle for freedom in 1809, but the theme is detached from the historic event and conceived as a monumental allegory. The four walk on as if they were in a dream, only half in possession of themselves, as if they had a premonition of their destiny. Leon Trotsky remembered an exhibition of the Vienna Secession in 1909: "The most prominent participant in the exhibition was Albin Egger-Lienz. Remember his name! His "Haspinger" [Johann Haspinger was a Catholic priest and leader of the Tyrolese revolt against Napoleon], his "Sowers" are unquestionably perfect paintings". And Carlo Carrà, one of the most important theorists of Italian Futurism, described him as one of three prominent artists of the XIII. International Art Exhibition in Venice.
In 1912, Egger-Lienz started teaching at the art college of Weimar (one of his students was Peter Drömmer), but, in 1913, settled down in St. Justina (near Bolzano, South Tyrol), where he worked as a free artist. He taught at the school of arts in Klausen (Chiusa). From 1914 to 1917, Egger-Lienz was called up for military service. In this time he produced his masterpieces such as For the Nameless:
Battlefield painters have the assignment of documenting everyday life in the tactical struggle for position and of recording the heroic deeds of soldiers. This was not the case with Egger-Lienz:. One could claim to see an element of heroisation in the lithograph 1915. However, in Field of Corpses dead corpses pile up in the trench, and the deformed expressivity of the bodies in Finale is an outcry against war:
Egger-Lienz also devoted his work to the tragedy of women whose men remained in the field, as in Women of War (below). The Mothers (1922) only receive hope under the sign of the crucified Saviour. The consequences of war are communicated by The Blinded (1918) in their baleful hopeless clumsiness.
Albin Egger-Lienz, Women of War, 1918