Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lovis "the Stratcher" Corinth

Oh, yes. There it is, my friends. See that line? That wonderful, scratched up, beautiful line can only be attributed to the 'master scratcher' printmaker, Mr. Lovis Corinth. The more we look at Mr. Corinth's works, the more we learn about humanity; the complexities of life and death. His furry, blurred lines can simultaneously define and obliterate form. They can caress the side of a scruffy tree, or let us experience the soft flesh of a lover. They are coarse and refined. Honestly, the guy can draw.

How we see Corinth's work depends on what side of the printmaking scale we sit. There are those among us who would care to define what is before us, and gracefully render objects and persons we recognize. Then there are those of us who would dare to take a line, throw a little passion into it, and make emotions come to life. Corinth slides back and forth along that scale with ease, equally comfortable to make tender landscapes, quirky self-portraits, or harsh statements about brutality.

He is able to make his drawing instrument do what he wants and from the efforts we get expressions beyond the descriptive. His self-portraits are oddities, and show a man trying to find something behind the outerlayer.

Skulls play a prominent role in his works, as if to say he is making a vanita piece. The efforts to make an image of life and love and passion and sacrifice can all be seen through the lens of a vanita where everything we do and labor for in our lives is a waste of time of our souls aren't saved, etc, etc. Those 17th c. still-life pieces from Spain and Holland aren't the only artists who can describe a vanita. Corinth describes, moreover, a fascination with immortality, death and what lies beneath our skins' veneer. He is curious, studious, serious and goes about his business rendering object and emotion in an eloquent, yet brutish fashion.
The man's work is small in scale but has a command of the composition to fill and overwhelm it with movement and swarthiness. The lines wrap around objects and figures and they swirl about the space between so we cannot feel a calm about these pictures. They are too actively charged to be quiet little prints on one man's artistic musings.

Even Corinth's landscapes have motion and movement of the trees and wind and water, even when the composition has open areas. Like Cezanne, Corinth chooses not to fill it all in. Thank goodness. Some of the best works have openness to breathe and let us gather in a small breath before we have to charge in amongst the chaotic lines through the rest of the picture.

Corinth gives is the measure of his intensity, his gaze. We can appreciate the beautifully messed up-ness of his furry lines and those scratchy patches that cling to the ink in a way that makes us want to run our fingers over the surface of his work. The elegance of a loving couple is what I will leave you to ponder the delicacy and fervency of their engagement.

Lovis may be a scratcher printmaker, but we all can do with a little scratched up lines from time to time.

1858 - born Franz Heinrich Louis in Tapiau, Prussia. The son of a tanner.
1876 - went to study painting in the academy of Königsberg.
1880 - attended the Academy of Fine Art in Munich, which rivaled Paris as the avant-garde art center in Europe at the time. There he was influenced by Courbet and the Barbizon school. Louis then traveled to Antwerp and then Paris where he studied at the Académie Julian. He returned to Königsberg.
1888 - adopted the name "Lovis Corinth"
1891- returned to Munich, joined the Munich Secession.
1899 - participated in an exhibition organized by the Berlin Secession.
1900 – moved to Berlin
1902 - opened a school of painting for women and married his first student, Charlotte Berend, some 20 years his junior and became mother of his two children.
1911 - suffered a stroke, and was partially paralyzed on his left side.
1915–25 - served as President of the Berlin Secession.
1891 – did first etching, favored drypoint and lithography.He made 12 woodcuts, all of them between 1919–1924. In the last 15 years of his life he produced more than 1200 graphic works, including 60 self-portraits.
1921 - received an honorary doctorate from the University of Königsberg
1925 - traveled to the Netherlands, caught pneumonia and died in Zandvoort.
The house where Corinth was born can be found now in Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.

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