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Self-portrait at the easel

man standing at an easel

© Ludwig Meidner-Archiv, Jewish Museum of the city of Frankfurt

The year this self-portrait was painted marked an important turning point in the artistic career of Ludwig Meidner, one of the most important Jewish expressionists.

In November 1912 Meidner exhibited his work in Herwarth Walden’s gallery "Der Sturm" together with Jakob Steinhardt and Richard Janthur. All three artists called themselves "Die Pathetiker" (The Exponents of Pathos). As author Kurt Pinthus recalls, influenced by a "new pathos," these artists wanted to "deliberately use an exaggerated mode of expression to explode outdated artistic and social forms in a fiery inferno … to create or at least prepare for something new and, as we believed, something better, which was to come from ‘active’ minds and hearts with faith in the future."

The synthesis of artistic, social and religious upheaval was a motif running through all of Meidner’s life and work. A revolutionary anarchist in his early years, he later became a religious mystic and ended his life as a strictly observant painter of biblical themes.

His numerous self-portraits were the medium through which he defined his artistic self-image. Experimenting with different ideals, he sometimes portrayed himself as self-tormenting and doubt-ridden, sometimes as demonic, and sometimes as brazen. This painting presents him as a self-assured artist. Although the composition draws on the conventions of the artist’s portrait, the painting style breaks with tradition, using rough brushstrokes and intense, nearly garish colors.

Object details:
Self-portrait at the easel
Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966)
Oil on canvas
89 x 69 cm
Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin

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