Lovis Corinth
Biography of German Impressionist-Expressionist Painter.

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Ecce Homo (1925)
Neue Pinakothek, Munich. One of the
greatest 20th-century paintings.

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Lovis Corinth (1858-1925)


The German painter and printmaker Franz Heinrich Louis Corinth was an important exponent of Impressionism, in which he was strongly influenced by the realist painting of modernists like Gustave Courbet (1819-77) and Edouard Manet (1832-83), as well as Old Masters such as Rubens (1577-1640) and Rembrandt (1606-1669). However, following a stroke in 1911, he turned increasingly to Expressionism, employing much looser and more emotive brushwork, and his mature paintings are seen as a powerful fusion of the two styles. A prolific artist, Corinth explored most of the painting genres including landscapes, portraits and still lifes, as well as allegorical and religious art. As a printmaker, he produced drypoints and lithographs, along with woodcuts and etchings. Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938), leader of Die Brucke and apostle of German Expressionism, described Lovis Corinth in these words: "In the beginning, he was only average; at the end he was truly great." For more background to his painting, please see: Post-Impressionism in Germany (c.1880-1910). Many of Lovis Corinth's paintings are available as prints in the form of poster art.

Self-portrait with Skeleton (1896)
Galerie Lenbachhaus, Munich.

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Training and Early Career

Born in Tapiau, East Prussia, Corinth trained at the Konigsberg Academy of Fine Art under Professor Otto Gunther, and subsequently at the Munich Academy where he was taught art by Franz von Defregger and Ludwig Lofftz. His early painting echoed the naturalist works of Rubens and the Munich Leibl-Kreis, and conventional German art of the 19th century. After visiting Antwerp, Corinth went to Paris where he studied at the progressive Academie Julian under Bouguereau and Robert-Fleury. While in the French capital, he made contact with several exponents of symbolism. In 1891, he returned to Munich, where he became a founding member of the Munich Sezession movement.


Berlin Impressionism

In 1900 he moved to Berlin in search of work, and enjoyed his first one-man art exhibition at Paul Cassirer's gallery. Eighteen months later, Corinth opened a painting school for women students, one of whom (Charlotte Berend) became his youthful wife and muse. A spiritual soulmate as well as the mother of his two children, she exerted a significant influence on his art. Meantime, he also joined the Berlin Sezession movement, and over the next decade, he - along with Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and Max Slevogt (1868-1932) - became recognized as one of the leading Impressionist painters in Germany. Nonetheless, Corinth retained a strong connection with realism, and his main inspiration remained that of Rembrandt rather than that of modern French painters.


Tragically, in 1911, Corinth suffered a stroke, after which - with the help of his wife - he turned to a looser, more expressionist style of painting. His colour palette became more vibrant and he produced a number of religious paintings, landscapes and portraits of enormous vitality and power. In 1913, the Berlin Sezession awarded him a retrospective, showcasing over 200 examples of his oil painting. In 1915, he was elected President of the Sezession; in 1917 the Berlin Academy of Fine Art awarded him a Professorship; and in 1921 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Konigsberg. In 1924 he was elected an honorary member of the Munich Academy.

Paintings and Prints

Famous examples of modern art by Lovis Corinth include: Nude Girl (1886, Minneapolis Institute of Arts); Self-Portrait with Skeleton (1896, Stadtische Galerie, Lenbachhaus); The Artist and His Family (1909, Niedersachsisches Landesmuseum Hanover); Embracing (1911, Courtauld Institute of Art, London); Samson Blinded (1912, Staatliche Museum, Berlin); his Walchensee series of landscape painting (1915–25); Magdalen with Pearls in her Hair (1919, Tate, London); Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (1923, Kunstmuseum, Basel); and Ecce Homo (1925, Neue Pinakothek, Munich).

Corinth also excelled in printmaking. Familiar with almost every print technique except aquatint, he preferred working with drypoint, lithography and the occasional woodcuts. In all, he produced well over 1,000 works of graphic art.

Corinth died of pneumonia while on a trip to Amsterdam in 1925 to see works by the great Dutch Realists, Rembrandt and Frans Hals (1582-1666). In 1937, his painting was condemned by the Nazis as Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) and banned.

Paintings and prints by Lovis Corinth can be seen in the best art museums throughout the German-speaking world, including the Lovis Corinth Museum in Tapiau.

• For more biographies of German artists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more about the expressionism movement, see: History of Art.
• For more about painting in Germany, see: Homepage.

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