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Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner 

The Apocalyptic Landscapes of XjU-CLW^XS 


Carol S. Eliel 

with a contribution by 

Eberhard Roters 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

This book was published in conjunction with 
the exhibition The Apocalyptic Landscapes of 
Ludwig Meidner, organized by the Los Angeles 
County Museum of Art. The exhibition was 
presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art October la- December 17, 1989, and at the 
Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, February i-April 8, 
1990, and was made possible in part by a grant 
from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Copublished by the Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art, 5905Wilshire Boulevard, Los 
Angeles, California 90036, and Prestel-Verlag, 
Mandlstrasse 26, D-8000 Munich 40, Federal 
Republic of Germany. 

Copyright © 1989 by Museum Associates, Los 
Angeles County Museum of Art. All rights 
reserved. No part of the contents of this book 
may be reproduced without the written permis- 
sion of the publishers. 


Unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are 

reproduced courtesy of the owners. 

Figures 17, 26, 34; Bildarchiv Preussischer Kultur- 


Figures 24-25, 27: Musees nationaux de France. 

Figure 31: K.-H. Brosthaus, Marl. 

Certain illustrations are covered by claims to 
copyright as follows; copyright © of works 
illustrated by the artists, their heirs and assigns, 
except in the following cases: 
Ludwig Meidner by Nachlass Meidner, Darm- 
stadt; Giacomo Balla, Max Beckmann, Robert 
Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky by VG Bild-Kunst, 
Bonn, 198O; Otto Dix by Dix Erben, Baden/ 
Switzerland; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner by Dr. Wolf- 
gang and Ingeborg Henze, Campione d'ltalia. 

Edited by Susan L. Caroselli 

Text by Eberhard Roters translated by 

David Britt 

Designed by Jim Drohka 

Typeset in Trump-Mediaval and Univers 
by Typoservice Urban GmbH, 
D-8000 Munich 21 

Color separation by VSO Merk -I- Steitz GmbH, 

Printing and binding by Passavia GmbH, Passau 

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Ludwig Meidner, Apokalyptische Landschaft 
(Apocalyptic Landscape), 1913, oil on canvas, 
26y2X3i54 in. (67.3x80 cm). Marvin and Janet 
Fishman Collection, Milwaukee, catalogue 5. 


Ludwig Meidner, Apokalyptische Landschaft 
(Beim Bahnhof Halensee) (Apocalyptic Landscape 
[Near the Halensee Railroad Station]), 1913, oil 
on canvas, 32yi6X38yi6 in. (81.5x97 cm). Los 
Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Clifford 
Odets. catalogue 7. 


cataloging-in-publication data 

Eliel, Carol S., 1955 - 

The apocalyptic landscapes of Ludwig 

Published in conjunction with an exhibition 
organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art. Held at the Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art, Oct. I2-Dec. 17, 1989, and at the Berlinische 
Galerie, Feb. i-April 8, 1990. 

Bibliography: p. 96. 

I. Meidner, Ludwig, 1884-1966 - Exhibitions. 
2. Landscape in art - Exhibitions. 3. Apocalyptic 
art - Germany - Exhibitions. 4. Expressionism 
(Art) - Germany - Exhibitions. L Meidner, Lud- 
wig, 1884-1966. H. Roters, Eberhard. IIL Los 
Angeles County Museum of Art. IV. Berlinische 
Galerie. V. Title. 


76o'.092 89-8264 

Softcover edition not available to the trade 
ISBN 3-7913-1025-9 (hardcover trade edition) 

Contents Foreword 


Lenders to the Exhibition 

The Apocalyptic Landscapes 11 

of Ludwig Meidner 

Carol S. Eliel 

The Painter's Nights 63 

Eberhard Roters 
Translated by David Britt 

Catalogue of the Exhibition 93 

Bibliography 96 


Earl A. Powell hi 


Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidnei examines the masterpieces of one 
of the most important but least-known German Expressionists. In the years 1912 
and 1913 Ludwig Meidner (1884 -1966) created a series of urban landscape paint- 
ings, as well as numerous related drawings and prints, powerful and disturbing 
images that reflect the social, artistic, philosophical, and emotional upheaval of 
Germany on the brink of the First World War. These works are brought together for 
the first time in this exhibition and catalogue, one of a number of projects under- 
taken by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art over the past decade that shed 
light on aspects of German Expressionism and which have contributed to the 
museum's standing as a research center in this field. 

We are grateful to Carol S. Eliel, associate curator of twentieth-century art at 
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who has worked diligently to bring this 
exhibition to fruition. Her scholarly and insightful essay, the first comprehensive 
study of Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes, places these works in a stylistic, 
thematic, and literary context. We also welcome the participation of the distin- 
guished German scholar Eberhard Roters, whose striking text, incorporating 
Meidner's eloquent prose-poetry, recreates the social and cultural milieu of prewar 
Berlin. Given Meidner's strong ties to that city, we are delighted that the exhibition 
will travel to the Berlinische Galerie. We are pleased that a grant from the National 
Endowment for the Arts allowed us to expand significantly the educational compo- 
nent of the exhibition. Finally, we would like to thank the lenders, institutional and 
private, whose generous cooperation has made this exhibition possible. 


Carol S. Eliel 

Associate curator 

Department of Twentieth- Century Art 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

While working on The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidnei during the past 
two years, I have been fortunate in having the support and encouragement of many 
people. I would especially like to express my appreciation to Thomas Grochowiak, 
author of the 1966 monograph on Ludwig Meidner, whose enthusiasm and gener- 
osity were exemplary. Without his help in locating and securing loans, the plans 
for this exhibition would never have come to fruition. I am also grateful to 
Stephanie Barron, curator of twentieth-century art at the Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art, for her sage advice throughout the project. One of the most 
rewarding aspects of this undertaking has been working with Eberhard Roters, 
whose support for the exhibition went far beyond that expected of a catalogue 
contributor. Numerous other colleagues in the United States and Germany have 
been extremely helpful: Dominik Bartmann of the Berlin Museum; Emily Braun, 
New York; Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich; Dorothy Kosinski, Basel; Annelise Loth, 
Darmstadt; Jorn Merkert of the Berlinische Galeric; Robert Gore Rifkind, Los 
Angeles; the staff of Prestel-Verlag, Munich; and Timothy Benson, Peter Brenner, 
Anne Diederick, Rosalinde Leader, Grete Wolf, and Christoph Zuschlag at the 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also like to thank David Britt for his 
sensitive translation of Professor Roters's essay. 

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Susan L. Caroselli thoughtfully 
edited the catalogue, which was beautifully designed by Jim Drobka; it was a 
delight to work with them both. Mitch Tuchman, managing editor, and Deenie 
Yudell, head graphic designer, solved seemingly insoluble problems concerning the 
production of the catalogue, for which I am most grateful. 

Arthur Owens and the Operations staff of the Los Angeles County Museum 
of Art were responsible for the installation of the exhibition, which was sensitively 
designed by Brent Saville. Elizabeth Algermissen and John Passi of the Exhibitions 
Department arranged for the travel of the exhibition to the Berlinische Galerie, 
and Renee Montgomery and Lisa Kalem of the Registrar's Office managed the 
details of the shipping of the works of art. Pamela Jenkinson and Sheila Prendiville 
of the Press Office disseminated information on the exhibition to the local and 
international press; William Lillys and Lisa Vihos of the Education Department 
coordinated related events. 

I would also like to thank the other members of the Department of Twen- 
tieth-Century Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for their enthusiasm 
and cooperation since the show's inception: Maurice Tuchman, Howard Fox, 
Judi Freeman, Richard Morris, Eric Pals, and Wendy Owen. Finally, I am grateful 
to director Earl A. Powell iii for his continuing support of this project. 

Lenders to the Exhibition 

Berlinische Galerie, Berlin 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

The Cleveland Museum of Art 

Stadtische Kunstsammlungen, Darmstadt 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, Milwaukee 

Bernd Freese 

Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Wight Art Gallery, 

University of California, Los Angeles 
Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art 
Museum Ludwig, Cologne 
Kunstbesitz der Stadt Marl 
Stadtische Kunsthalle, Recklinghausen 
The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 
The Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, Beverly Hills 
Saarland-Museum, Saarbriicken 
The Saint Louis Art Museum 
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 
Tel Aviv Museum of Art 
Galerie Valentien, Stuttgart, Konigsbau 
Three private collections 





Apokalyptiscbe Landschaft (Apocalyptic Land- 
scape), 1913, oil on canvas, iiyiX46V% in. (79X 
119 cm). Westfalisches Landesmuseum fiir Kunst 
und Kulturgeschichte, Miinster. 

Carol S. Eliel 





Ludwig Meidner 

The oil paintings of those prewar years, especially those from 1912/13, have remained 
my best and most characteristic work to date and made my name known m later years. ^ 

All translations from the Gernnan are by the author 
unless otherwise noted- 


Meidner to Franz Landsberger, February 21. 1934, 

Meidner-Landsberger Correspondence, Leo Baeck 

Institute, New York; cited in Scheyer 1971, 82. 


Meidner, "Mein Leben." in Brieger 1919. 11. 


Meidner, "Hymne auf den hellen Tag," in Meidner 

1918c, 59: translated by David Britt. 

^■udwig Meidner's mid-career assessment of his own work has stood the test of 
time: his apocalyptic landscapes, executed shortly before the outbreak of the First 
World War, are acknowledged as his masterpieces. Even they, however, are not 
widely known today. Though active in Berlin's artistic and literary circles, Meidner 
never belonged to any of the major artistic groups of his time and has thus not 
been the subject of the scholarly attention or public popularity accorded his 
contemporaries who were members of Die Briicke (The Bridge) or Der Blaue Reitei 
(The Blue Rider). Yet in his apocalyptic landscapes Meidner reflected the social, 
artistic, philosophical, and emotional state of Germany on the brink of war 
perhaps better than any of his colleagues. 

Meidner was born in Bernstadt, in the former Prussian province of Silesia, 
on April i8, 1884. His early years in this "pure potato and sugar beet area [that] had 
never spawned a painter or a poet"^ were unexceptional. After his secondary 
schooling, Meidner wanted to study art, but his parents, preferring a more practical 
profession for their son, apprenticed him in 1901 to a bricklayer. He pursued his 
artistic interests on his own time, and in 1903 he succeeded in entering the Konig- 
liche Kunstschule (Royal School of Art) in Breslau. Although he found the 
academic training dull, Meidner did take advantage of his visits to the Silesian 
Provincial Museum of Fine Arts. There he discovered the work of the northern 
Baroque painter Michael Willmann (1630 -1706) El, whom he called "a crazed 
Baroque soul who hurled onto his canvas a world of fiery ardor, martyrdom, 
and blood-lust,"3 providing an early impetus for Meidner's later obsession with 
apocalyptic themes. 

By 1905 Meidner had renounced his parents' financial support and moved to 
Berlin, designing advertisements for furriers to earn a living. The following year. 



Michael Willmann, The Maityidom of Saint 
Adalbett, before 1705, oil on canvas, 255/4X19 in. 
(65.5x48.3 cm). Alte Galerie, Steiermarkisches 
Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz. 

Bau del Unteigtundbahn in Berlin (Subway 
Construction in Berlin), 1910, oil on canvas, 
25'/i6X3l'/i in. (65x80 cm). Museum Ludwig, 


Meidner to Franz Landsberger, January 3, 1907, 

Meidner-Landsberger Correspondence, Leo Baeck 

Institute, New York; cited in Scheyer 1971, 76-77. 


Meidner 1943, 87-91: revised and translated as 

"Erinnerungen an den jungen Modigliani," in Kunz 

1973, 55-60. 


Meidner, "Mem Leben," in Brieger 1919, 12. 


Brockhaus 1982. 92. 

provided with a stipend by a wealthy aunt, he left for Paris, which was then 
considered the major center of artistic activity. After studying briefly at the acade- 
mies Julian and Cormon, Meidner forsook formal training, instead spending hours 
on his own in the Louvre. He found Paris to be disappointing in general; 

I live here in Montmartre (a place world-renowned for its sloppiness and 
lack of cleanliness), but this decaying "cultural" milieu I find in my heart to 

be distasteful Paris (like France in general) borders on sickliness. What 

makes Paris important are the monuments of the past. Today the French are 

no longer productive Berlin — how different! Berlin is a struggling, 

earnest, burgeoning city Berlin has become the world's intellectual and 

moral capital.'' 

Meidner met the Italian expatriate Amedeo Modigliani in Paris in the fall 
of 1906, and though their painting styles remained far apart the two became close 
friends, sharing an interest in poetry as well as in the visual arts.^ Although 
Meidner became a regular at the bohemian cafe-cabaret Au Lapin Agile, he did 
not adopt the artistic vocabulary of the French avant-garde, focusing instead on 
the urban landscape, painting recognizable, unemotional views of the Butte 
Montmartre and other Parisian sites. 

Called back to Berlin for his compulsory military examination, Meidner left 
the French capital in June 1907. The following five years were a very difficult period 
for him: "Summer 1907. . . I hit a dreadful dead end, and unparalleled material 
and spiritual need strangled and paralyzed me for five long years. "^ During this 
time Meidner focused on his urban and suburban environment, depicting the 
bleak industrial aspects of Berlin CD. His images mirror the desolate side of a city 
that was then the fastest growing in Europe: the population had gone from one 
million in 1880 to more than two million in 1910, doubling again in the next 
decade, despite the losses sustained during the First World War.^ Construction 
and industrialization surrounded and oppressed Meidner; his barren views of 
suburban Berlin and his relatively meager output are an indication of his 
distressed state of mind. 

Meidner's preoccupation with the city as a subject for his paintings suggests 
his awareness of Die Biiicke and the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in particular. 
Although Kirchner did not move from Dresden to Berlin until October of 1911, he 
had already come for an extended stay in the spring of 1910, and his work had 
been exhibited in Berlin that year and again early the following year in group 
shows, held at the Galerie Maximilian Macht, of artists rejected by the Berlin 
Secession. In paintings such as the 1911 Bahnhofseinfahit: Bahnhof Lobtau (Station 

E L I E L 



Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Bahnhofseinfahzt: Bahn- 
hof Lobtau (Station Approach: Lobtau Railroad 
Station), 1911, oil on canvas, 35'7i6X49yi6 in. 
(90x125 cm). Private collection. 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Die Stiasse (The Street), 
1913, oil on canvas, 47'/2X35''/8 in. (120.6x91.1 cm) 
The Museum of Modern Art, Nev^ York, 

Approach: Lobtau Railroad Station) Hi Kirchner's preoccupation with the desolate 
suburban landscape (here, Dresden rather than Berlin) paralleled Meidner's. 
Interestingly, although Kirchner is regarded as the quintessential big-city Expres- 
sionist, his paintings did not begin to display a distinctly urban sensibility — with 
its aggressiveness, sense of speed and bombast, and rhythmic dynamism — until 
1913, after Meidner had arrived at his own mature urban style. Kirchner's Die 
Stiasse (The Street) [H, which has come to epitomize the high-strung, brittle nature 
of Berlin society in the prewar years, postdates Meidner's Biennendes (Fabiik-) 
Gebdude (Burning [Factory] Buildings) [H of 1912, a painting that is even more literal 
in describing the tense and fragile state of Germany at that time. Although the sky 
remains a lovely blue dotted with puffy white clouds and the buildings in the 
background at right stand strong and erect, smoke pours out of the factory while 
the workers — society's economic backbone — flee. The roof of the structure in the 
right foreground, which would logically extend into the viewer's space and thus 
provide a viewing platform, tilts ominously and appears to be on the verge of 
collapse, suggesting that even the viewer is in imminent danger. 


Brennendes (Fabrik-) Gebdude (Burning [Factory) Buildings), 1912, oil on canvas, 18 
(46x50 cm|. Collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. 


8Xi9"/i6 in. 



An Alfred Mombert (To Alfred Mombert), 1912, 
oil on canvas. Location unknown. 

Klagende Weibei (Lamenting Women), 1912, oil 
on canvas. Location unknown. 

Cholera, 1912, oil on canvas. Location unknown. 


Landschaft (Landscape), 1913, oil on canvas. 
Location unknown. 

Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Land- 
scape), 1912, oil on canvas. Location unknown. 


Vorstadtszene (Suburban Scene), 1915, oil on 
canvas. Location unknown. 


In Herwarth Walden's exhibition catalogue (Berlin 
1912b) these six paintings are listed as: no. 8. Welt- 
untergang (Decline of the World): no. 9, An Alfred 
Momben (To Alfred Mombert): no. 10. Kosmische 
Landschaft I mit Komet (Cosmic Landscape I with 
Comet): no. 11. Kosmische Landschaft II: no. 12. 
Landschaft mit verbranntem Haus (Landscape with 
Burned-Out House); and no. ^3, Apokalyptische 
Landschaft (Apocalyptic Landscape), With the 
exception of An Alfred Mombert B. none of 
N/leidner's works can now be specifically identified 
by these titles. 

An Alfred Mombert is now lost, as are five other 
apocalyptic landscapes, which are known only 
through published reproductions: Cholera [H, 1912: 
Apokalyptische Landschaft (H, 1912: Klagende 
Weiber (Lamenting Women) [a], 1912: Landschaft 
(Landscape) (jU, 1913: and Vorstadtszene (Suburban 
Scene) (JU, 1915. 

Grochowiak 1966, 25. 

Frenzel 1985: Schubert 1980. Max Beckmann, for 
example, may have been directly influenced by 
Nietzsche in an early version of the resurrection 
theme completed in 1909 CD: see Frenzel 1985. 
77-78. It should be pointed out that Beckmann's 
enthusiasm for Nietzsche disappeared as the First 
World War progressed. 

Kurt Hiller cited in Frenzel 1985, 79. 

Gordon 1987 14-15. In part 4 of the prologue to 
Also sprach Zarathustra. Nietzsche states (1978, 

Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman 
— a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a 
dangerous on-the-way. a dangerous looking- 
back. a dangerous shuddering and stopping. 
What is great in man is that he is a bridge {eine 
Brucke] and not an end: what can be loved in 
man is that he is an overture and a going under 
Nietzsche 1978, 176-78. 

In November 1912 Meidner's work was shown publicly for the first time, in a 
group exhibition with Richard Janthur and Jakob Steinhardt at Herwarth Walden's 
Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. Meidner's contribution of fifteen paintings included 
six apocalyptic landscapes (although only one bore that title). ^ In Meidner's scenes 
of urban ruin and devastation were distilled a variety of literary and artistic 
influences that had worked upon the troubled young artist in his previous years 
of suffering. His disturbing imagery was profoundly affected by the writings of 
Friedrich Nietzsche and the poetry of his own contemporaries in Berlin, as well as 
by the apocalyptic visions of the Northern Renaissance and the Romantic era in 
France and England. The style of these and subsequent apocalyptic landscapes 
demonstrated his attention to the work of the Italian Futurists, Delaunay, van 
Gogh, Munch, and other German Expressionists. 

Meidner had spent a good deal of time during his lean years, between 1907 
and 1912, reading Nietzsche,^ whose writings were of enormous importance to the 
entire Expressionist generation, artists and writers alike. ^° The writer Kurt Hiller 
thought him "the greatest thinker since Plato",-' ^ Die Biiicke took its name from 
the prologue to Also spmch Zarathustra (Thus spoke Zarathustra). '^ Nietzsche 
saw German society as Apollonian - intellectual and rational - and believed 
that its only hope for salvation lay in a return to the Dionysian — the vital and 
irrational, the primitive and emotional. He further supported the notion of the 
cathartic and regenerative apocalypse, creation through destruction, which was 
to become one of the underlying concepts of German Expressionist art. In Also 
sprach Zarathustra, Nietzsche described this impending apocalypse in distinctly 
urban terms: 

Zarathustra, here is the great city; here you could find nothing and lose 
everything. Why do you want to wade through this mire? . . , Rather spit on 

the city gate and turn back Here all great feelings decay — By everything 

in you that is bright and strong and good, O Zarathustra, spit on this city of 
shopkeepers and turn back! Here all blood flows putrid and lukewarm and 
spumy through all the veins; spit on the great city, . .where everything infirm, 
infamous, lustful, dusky, overmusty, pussy, and plotting putrefies together: 
spit on the great city and turn back! 

To which Zarathustra replies: 

1 am nauseated by this great city too Woe unto this great city! And I wish I 

already saw the pillar of fire in which it will be burned. For such pillars of 
fire must precede the great noon. But this has its own time and its own 

E L I E L 



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Max BeckmnnD., Auferstehung (Resurrection), 
1909, oil on canvas, i55'/2X98''/i6 in. (395x250 cm) 
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 

Selbstbildnis (Mein Nachtgesicht) (Self- Portrait 
[Night Visage]), 1913, oil on canvas, 26'/4Xi9'/4 in. 
(66.7x48.9 cm). Collection of Marvin and Janet 
Fishman, Milwaukee. 


Meidner again emphasized tinis side of his persona 
in an inscription on a 1917 self-portrait: "I, Ludwig 
Meidner, clod of earth cut into little pieces, out- 
lawed, apocalyptic, my skull blown into oblivion in 
the winter windl" (cited in Whitford 1972, 56). 

Not only did Meidner include self-portraits in 
several of the apocalyptic landscapes BD dU Us], but 
his independent self-portraits of this period can be 
considered as adjuncts to the apocalyptic land- 
scape theme. A work such as the 1913 Selbstbildnis 
(Mein Nachtgesicht) (Self-Portrait [Night Visage]) 
[jil, with its animated brushwork and sulphurous 
coloration, reveals the same level of emotional 
intensity and sense of barely contained hysteria as 
do the contemporaneous apocalyptic landscapes. 

Das Eckhaus (The House on the Corner) B. also 
of 1913, provides another bridge between Meidner's 
portraiture and the apocalyptic landscapes. This is 
a "portrait" of a specific house, the Villa Kochmann 
in Dresden (also seen in the ink drawing Strasse 
(Street] S). The owner of this house, the very 
wealthy Franz Kochmann. owned a lithographic 
studio and invited Meidner and his friend the poet 
Ernst Wilhelm Lotz to live and work in Dresden at 
his expense in the spring of 1914. Meidner thus 
found himself in Dresden at the outbreak of the 
First World War. Lotz volunteered for military service 
and was soon killed in action: Meidner returned to 
Berlin early in 1915 (Meidner 1918b: reprinted in 
Kunz 1973, 61-68). 
Stefan Zweig translated in Gordon 1987, 101. 

In the earliest of Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes, ApoAaJyiDtische Vision 
(Apocalyptic Vision) M of 1912, as vvrell as in later versions [13 [zD El, Apollonian man, 
the man of thought rather than action, is consumed or paralyzed by the apoca- 
lypse; a Nietzschian "pillar of fire" - the leitmotif of the comet - often blazes in 
the background. In other of Meidner's works the man of action, the Dionysian 
man, takes matters into his own hands: he either cheats the destructive apocalypse 
of its grim reward by escaping (frontispiece and iH HD) or confronts the threat 
directly, as in the 1912 Revoiution (Bariikadenkampf) (Revolution [Battle at the 
Barricades]) 13. 

In his images of himself Meidner seems torn between Apollonian and 
Dionysian man. His 1913 Apokaiyptisciie Landschaft (Apocalyptic Landscape) Izl 
shows the small figure of the artist escaping in Dionysian fashion by the lower left 
corner of the painting, while the anonymous Apollonian figure in the center 
is transfixed by the unfolding cataclysmic events. In Ich und die Stadt (I and the 
City) Izll, however, painted the same year, Meidner depicts himself as the 
Apollonian — deep in thought, wracked by indecision, the chaos behind him a 
reflection of his mental anguish. ^^ The more modern man thinks, the more he 
intellectualizes, the less he is able to act. 

In the 1912 exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm Meidner, Janthur, and Stein- 
hardt, as a statement of solidarity between Expressionist painters and writers, 
derived their group's name. Die Pathetikei (The Pathetic Ones), from Das Neopathe- 
tische Cabaret (The Neopathetic Cabaret), a literary gathering that had in turn 
taken its name from writer Stefan Zweig's concept of neues Pathos (new pathos) as 
articulated in 1910: 

It seems that our age is again preparing to return to this primordial, intimate 
contact between poet and listener, our age which is again originating a new 
pathos. . . .Today, as before, it seems that the lyric poet will have the right to 
become, if not the spiritual leader of his age, then at least the tamer and 
arouser of its passions, the rhapsodist, the challenger, the inspirer, the igniter 
of the sacred flame - in short, to become energy.^^ 

Die Pathetikei refers to both the passionate aspect of Expressionist emotion- 
alism and the compassion, with its emphasis on pity and empathy, evinced by 
these artists for their subjects. Steinhardt's Die Stadt (The City) [S of 1913 reveals 
this passion and compassion, simultaneously depicting the external energy and 
excitement of contemporary urban life and the quieter, more meditative, internal- 
ized aspects of modern existence. On the right is a densely packed, agitated 
urban scene with floodlights, streetcars, and a seemingly endless parade of 

E L I E L 



Das Eckhaus (Villa Kochmann, Dresden) (The 
House on the Corner), 1913, oil on canvas on 
board, 38'/4X30"/i6 in. (97.2x78 cm).Thyssen- 
Bornemisza Foundation, Lugano. 


Sttasse (Street), 1913, Chinese ink on paper, 
2i'/2Xi7y4 in. (54.6x45.1 cm). Marvin and Janet 
Fishman Collection, IVIilwaukee. 



Jakob Steinhardt, Die Stadt (The City), 1913, oil 
on canvas, 24x153/4 in. (61x40 cm|. National- 
galerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kultur- 
besitz, Berlin. 


It has been suggested that the head of a young 

man at the bottom left of Steinhardt's painting is a 

self-portrait, which would lend the picture further 

resonance. See Berlin 1987a, cat 166. 


Hiller 1912. cols. 1515-16. 


Schneider 1966, 19. 


Georg Heym, "Der Krieg," translated in Levine 1979, 

111-12: the German text is published in Rose 1960, 



Schneider 1966. 19. 

anonymous, robotic figures. On the left, in stark contrast, Steinhardt probes the 
human psyche, in a single visage at the bottom, then in a full figure above, and 
finally in a small, tight group of four figures. ^i^ All are asleep, suggesting the 
possibility that Steinhardt felt dreams to be man's truest form of expression. 

Meidner was generally acknowledged as the leader of Die Pathetiker. The 
poet Kurt Hiller remarked, "His work seems to be the richest — [His] strong point 
is not painterly tricks . . .but rather the painterly expression of a feeling, of an 
experience, of the needs of the soul."^^ After their Galerie Der Sturm exhibition 
Die Pathetikei ceased to exhibit as a group, but Meidner's work continued to 
embody their unwritten principles and aspirations. 

The literary connections of Die Pathetikei in general and Meidner in partic- 
ular were crucial to his development of the apocalyptic landscape. In the fall of 
1911, when Meidner was still creating bleak suburban images like his Gasometer in 
Beilin-Schonebeig (Gas Tank in Berlin-Schoneberg) M, the poet Georg Heym wrote 
his famous poem "Der Krieg" (The war), which describes "the unleashing of the 
demon of war and the irruption of the hosts of annihilation into a world ripe for 
its fall" 18: 

He has arisen, who has long been asleep, 
Arisen from the depths of the cellars deep. 
In the twilight he stands, huge and unknown. 
And he crushes the moon in his black hand — 

In the night he drives the fire across the fields. 
A red dog howling with wildly gaping jaws — 

The dark plains are everywhere in flames, . . . 

And the flames devour forest after forest, . . . 

A great city sank down in yellow smoke, 

Threw itself without a sound into the belly of the abyss, . . . 

On the reflection of storm-shredded clouds, 

In the dark, cold barrenness of death 

The night withered away while he with the flames 

Trickles pitch and fire down upon Gomorrah.'^^ 

In another poem of 1911, "Umbra Vitae" (Shadow of life), Heym "conjured up the 
tensely charged atmosphere of the twilight of the world, the tormenting anxiety 
with which men of delicate nerves responded to an as yet invisible threat. "2° 

E L I E L 



Meidner, "Gruss des Malers an die Dichter," in 
Meidner 1918c, 77. 

Georg Heym, "Umbra Vitae," translated in Ham- 
burger and Middleton 1964, 155, 

Meidner may also have been influenced by 
Heym's description in "Umbra Vitae" of humans in 
this cataclysmic environment El [53 ill: 

They run. 
To hasten their slow dying Then they fall. 
And in the open fields lie prone. 

But twitch a little still . 

at last they yield. 
Lie buried by the sage-brush, by the thorns. 

(translated in Hamburger and Middleton 1964, 


Jakob van Hoddis, "Weltende," translated in Ham- 
burger and Middleton 1964, 49 

Johannes R. Becher, "On Jakob van Hoddis," trans- 
lated in Raabe 1974, 44. Becher himself also wrote 
poetry whose apocalyptic imagery closely parallels 
Meidner's paintings, as did various others, including 
Alfred Wolfenstein, Georg Iraki, and Ernst Stadler. In 
1920 Kurt Pinthus published an anthology of Expres- 
sionist poetry entitled Menschheitsdammerung 
(Twilight of mankind): it has four sections including 
one called "Sturz und Schrei" (Collapse and 
scream), the first portion of which concentrates on 
urban imagery. 

Like Meidner, Heym was a Silesian who had come to Berlin, where he spent 
a great deal of time at the literary Cafe des Westens (as did Meidner) until his early 
death in an ice-skating accident in 1912. Meidner certainly knew Heym and his 
work, which he praised in his book Im Nacken das Sternemeer (Behind my head 
the sea of stars). -^ In fact, the artist may have been directly influenced by the 
opening lines of "Umbra Vitae" when painting a number of his apocalyptic land- 
scapes m m a [u [76]: 

The people on the streets draw up and stare. 
While overhead huge portents cross the sky; 
Round fanglike towers threatening comets flare, 
Death-hearing, fiery snouted where they fly.^^ 

In his poem Heym adopts the comet as a sign of impending disaster, much as 
Meidner did in the following years in his paintings. 

Meidner counted among his closest friends Hans Davidsohn, a poet known 
by the pseudonym Jakob van Hoddis. Van Hoddis is credited with writing the first 
Expressionist poem, which he read aloud at Das Neopathetische Cabaret late in 
1910 and published in January of the following year. Entitled "Weltende" (End of 
the world), the poem describes a cataclysmic scene: 

The bourgeois' hat flies off his pointed head, 
the air re-echoes with a screaming sound. 
Tilers plunge from roofs and hit the ground, 
and seas are rising round the coasts (you read). 

The storm is here, crushed dams no longer hold, 

the savage seas come inland with a hop. 

The greater part of people have a cold. 

Off bridges everywhere the railroads drop.^^ 

The writer Johannes R. Becher, another member of the Neopathetische circle, 
described the extraordinary psychological effect of van Hoddis's poem on his 

We had been metamorphosed by these eight lines, transformed . , . ,We felt 
like new beings, like creatures on the first day of creation, a new world was 
to be ushered in with us, and we swore we would cause such an uproar that 

the bourgeois would be struck deaf and dumb the poem we bore before 

us as a talisman for our campaign, to usher in a massive Rennaissance [sic] 
I for mankind. "2'' 



Albrecht Diirer, The Seven Trumpets from The 
Apocalypse, c. 1496, woodcut, is'AxiiVs in. 
139.3x28.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of 
Art, New York, gift of Junius Spencer Morgan 


Meidner cited in Kinkel 1967. 119 


Meidner's lournal entry for August 9, 1915; 

published in Kunz 1973, 34. 


For a consideration of the theme of the apocalypse 

from the middle ages through the twentieth century. 

see Ludwigshafen am Rhem 1985. 


Panofsky 1955, 59. 


See Gordon 1987. 61 -65. for a discussion of the 

influence of the Gothic style on Expressionist artists 

and architects. 


See Rosenblum 1971 for a general discussion of 

British interest in the Sublime during this period. 

Contemporary literature was not the only factor informing Meidner's 
development of the apocalyptic landscape. He himself wrote of other influences: 

I value the old Germans of the Donau School, sometimes Multscher, the 

sculpture of Veit Stoss and Notke. From Munch and van Gogh I learned a lot. 

Kokoschka and Beckmann are important artists. I very much like the 

Baroque - that is truly an inner affinity. I take Blake to be a phenomenon - 

as a poet and painter. I worked according to his tendencies before I even had 

any idea who he was.^^ 
Elsewhere Meidner referred to "the great Romantics [who are] my most sublime 
models: H[ans] Multscher, Griinewald, Altdorfer, Urs Graf, Bosch, Bruegel the 
Elder, Rowlandson, Wiertz, Gericault, Daumier, van Gogh!!!, Ensor," as opposed to 
Raphael and Diirer, "admittedly two heroes for all eternity, but not models for 
today, for me!!"26 

The apocalyptic theme was of course not new to Meidner and his contem- 
poraries; it had a long tradition in the history of art, beginning in the ninth 
century.27 Between 1496 and 1498 Albrecht Diirer created a series of woodcuts 
depicting the biblical Apocalypse H that has been described by Erwin Panofsky as 
"among what may be called the inescapable works of art. Summarizing, yet 
surpassing an age-old tradition, these works command an authority which no later 
artist could or can ignore. "^^ Although Meidner was not influenced by any one of 
Diirer's specific images, the earlier artist's serial treatment of the theme may 
well have suggested that possibility to Meidner. Certainly the entire Expressionist 
generation in Germany was keenly aware of and influenced by the distinctive 
angularity of the northern late Gothic style epitomized by Diirer.29 

Meidner's admiration for the otherworldly images by Hieronymus Bosch 
is evident in several of his apocalyptic drawings: in Explosion auf der Biiicke 
(Explosion on the Bridge) m and Schlacht (Battle) M, both from 1914, bizarre and 
eerie life forms float free in tumultuous settings reminiscent of Bosch's extra- 
ordinary visions of hell im. 

Meidner also acknowledged a close affinity to William Blake M, like the 
German both a visionary painter and writer, but numerous other British artists 
working in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were obsessed with 
some aspect of the apocalyptic Subhme, including George Stubbs, who interpreted 
the theme through animals rather than human figures, John Hamilton Mortimer, 
Benjamin West, who painted a series of versions of Death on a Pale Horse, and 
Joseph Wright of Derby, in his views of Vesuvius erupting M.^° 

French artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, most notably 
Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault M, were also fascinated with apocalyptic 

E L I E L 



Explosion auf deT Briicke (Explosion on the 
Bridge), 1914, ink, 22'/,6Xi6'V'i6 in. (57x43 cra|. 
Galerie Valentien, Stuttgart, Kbnigsbau. 




Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly 
Delights (right panel|, 1503-4, oil on panel, 
86V8X38'/4 in. (220x97 cm). Museo del Prado, 

Schlacht (Battle), 1914, ink and pencil, 259/,6Xi9'5/i6 in. (64.9x50.6 cm) 
Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, Milwaukee. 


E L I E L 


William Blake, Fire, c. 1805, pen and watercolor, 
i2v'',6Xi6V8 in. (31.7x42.8 cm). The Pierpont 
Morgan Library, New York (1971.18 W. Blake). 

Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius, c. 1774/75, oil 
on canvas, 47'/ix67 in. (120.6x170.2 cm). Derby 
Museum and Art Gallery. 



The notion of depicting contemporary events in the 
grand manner formerly reserved for episodes from 
history, literature, the Bible, or mythology was first 
introduced in the 1770s, with Benjamin West's 
Death of General Wolfe. 1771, as the earliest impor- 
tant example; see Wind 1938 and Mitchell 1944 As 
the nineteenth century progressed, artists became 
more fascinated with contemporary subjects, and 
by the twentieth century not only the exalted status 
but even the basic concept of history painting had 
all but ceased to exist. 

themes. Interestingly, many of these artists chose to depict the apocalypse in a 
contemporary context (Wright of Derby, Delacroix, Gericault) rather than as a 
supernatural event.^i Meidner's forthright depiction of the human cost of war in 
the 1911 drawing Schiecken des Kheges (Horrors of War) M recalls The Massacre at 
Chios Mi by Delacroix, which Meidner would have known from his many visits to 
the Louvre in 1906-7. Delacroix's influence is still clearer in Meidner's later treat- 
ment of the apocalyptic theme, Revolution (Barrikadenkampf) of 1912 M. Meidner's 
canvas bears a distinct resemblance to Delacroix's 1830 masterpiece. Liberty 
Leading the People M, commemorating the July Revolution of that year, in which 
the people of Paris rose up against the reactionary Bourbon monarchy. Meidner's 
reference to Delacroix's iconic image, heightened by the red, white, and blue 
coloration of Revolution, lends his painting weight and significance. Despite the 
similarities, however, Meidner's view of the barricades differs from Delacroix's 
of almost a century earlier. Most importantly, Delacroix has depicted a scene 

Eugene Delacroix, The Massacre at Chios, 18 
oil on canvas, 1645/16x1393/8 in. (417x354 cm) 
Musee du Louvre, Paris. 


Theodore Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 
1818/19, oil on canvas, i93>/i6X28i'/8 in. 
(491x716 cm). Musee du Louvre, Paris. 

E L I E L 


Revolution (Barrikadenkampf) (Revolution 
[Battle at the Barricades] |, 1912, reverse of 
Apokalyptische Landschaft in, oil on canvas, 
3i'/2X45'Vi6 in. (80x116 cm). Nationalgalerie, 
Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 
1830, oil on canvas, i02Vsxi2j'Vi6 in. 
(260x325 cm). Musee du Louvre, Paris. 


Vincent van Gogh, The Ravine, 1889, oil on 
canvas, ijViXisVs in. 169.9x89.9 cm). Rijks- 
museum KroUer-Miiller, Otterlo. 

Biennende Stadt (Burning City), c. 1913, reverse 
of Biennende Stadt M, oil on canvas, 25'yi6X 
3i"/i6 in. (68.5x80.5 cm). The Saint Louis Art 
Museum, bequest of Morton D. May. 

E L I E L 


Die Gestrandeten (The Stranded Ones), 1911, 
tempera, i^VuKioVit in. (40x52.3 cm). Museum 
Ludwig, Cologne. 


Schrecken des Krieges (Horrors of War), 1911, 
ink and wash, iSViiXZoVi in. (41.5x52 cm). 
Kunstbesitz der Stadt Marl. 



Otto Dix, Die Skatspielei (The Skat Players], 
1920, oil and collage on canvas, 43'/i6X33'/i6 in. 
(110x85 cm). Private collection, Federal Republic 
of Germany. 


Grochowiak 1966. 69; Presler 1988, 59 Presler has 
worked out a biblical reading of many of the apoca- 
lyptic landscapes, which can be further supported 
by the presence of the angel of death hovering in 
the sky In Apokalyptische Landschaft (Beim Bahn- 
hof Halensee) (Near the Halensee Railroad Station; 
frontispiece) and Bombardement einer Stadt 
(Shelling of a City) (31, both from 1913. To interpret 
Meidner's Images on only one level Is too limiting, 
however, and does not do these works justice. 

The supine figure In Apokalyptische Landschaft 
EH can also be interpreted as a sleeping figure, a 
reference to the noble savage who sleeps the sleep 
of the innocent next to his smoldering wood fire, a 
cluster of tents for shelter to his left. In contrast to 
this Dionysian scene is the disaster that is played 
out In the background; a comet or volcano wreaks 
havoc on civilization, whose inhabitants run like 
lemmings to the sea. 

based on a historical event that occurred in Paris on July 28, 1830, including details 
of clothing and weapons, while Meidner's revolution is set in neither a specific 
time nor a specific place. The only individualized figure in the image is that 
of the artist himself, who peers fearfully across the barricade in the left foreground. 
Delacroix's stable, pyramidal composition is in marked contrast to Meidner's 
melee, where only the flagbearer is fixed in place while the rest of the figures and 
the buildings themselves are caught up in frenzied and destructive agitation. 

Among Meidner's "most sublime models" were those artists whose work 
affected the style as well as the thematic content of his paintings and drawings. 
In 1910 a large exhibition of the works of Vincent van Gogh was held at the 
Galerie Paul Cassirer in Berlin. It included the 1889 canvas The Ravine (H, whose 
rush of water streaming under an arched bridge in an undulating landscape is 
echoed in Meidner's Biennende Stadt (Burning City) SU of about 1913, with its 
dizzying flow of streets and sidewalks. 

Meidner's earliest apocalyptic scenes date from 1911, no doubt partly in 
response to the poetry of van Hoddis and Heym. Die Gestmndeten (The Stranded 
Ones) H, dated October 1911, is Meidner's most quiescent treatment of the motif, 
although there is already a hint of the barren postapocalyptic landscape. This 
drawing could even serve as an illustration of Heym's description of war: "On the 
reflection of storm-shredded clouds, / In the dark, cold barrenness of death /The 
night withered away. . . ." In Schiecken des Kiieges M, also from 1911, there emerges 
the universal destruction wrought by war: three veterans sit on the ground, 
maimed, naked, and helpless, while the land burns in the background. This 
drawing looks forward almost prophetically to such postwar images as Otto Dix's 
Die Skatspielei (The Skat Players) HI of 1920, which shows three maimed officers 
playing cards with prosthetic hands or with their feet and mouths. 

Apokalyptische Vision M was a reflection of Meidner's turbulent thoughts 
and emotions during the summer of 1912, a period eloquently described in this 
catalogue in the essay by Eberhard Roters. Three figures in the center of the canvas 
are overwhelmed by an explosion or a comet streaking across the sky. The muted 
coloration lends to the scene grisly overtones of death and rotting flesh; the 
semblance of an architectural structure at the upper left is collapsing. The barren 
landscape offers no hope of regeneration; even the sun, normally a beacon of 
light, is shrouded. 

The supine figure in the center of the composition reappears, in mirror 
image, in Apokalyptische Landschaft M of about 1913. This corpselike figure has 
been variously interpreted as Christ taken down from the cross, the last Adam, or 
Abel struck down by his brother Cain.32 Once again a comet flashes across the 

E L I E L 


Apokalyptische Vision (Apocalyptic Vision], 
1912, oil on canvas, 2SVi6Xi4'y,6 in. (72.5x88.5 cm] 
Leicestershire Museums and Art Galleries, 


Guse 1980. n,p. 


Nell Walden cited in Eimert 1974, 105. 


Munich 1985. 266. 




For a full consideration of the effects of Futurism on 

German art, see Eimert 1974 


Meidner. "An Introduction to Painting Big Cities." in 

Miesel 1970, 114; originally published as "AnIeitung 

zum Malen von Grossstadtbildern," in volume 12 

(1914) of Kunst und Kunstler 

night sky, perhaps a reference to the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1910, which 
was seen — along with other cataclysmic events of the period, including the 
Messina earthquake of 1908 and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 — as a portent of 
catastrophes that could not be controlled by modern man's technological wizardry.^s 

The spring of 1912 witnessed an event crucial to Meidner's artistic develop- 
ment: the Futurist exhibition from April 12 to May 31 at the Galerie Der Sturm, 
including works by Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo, and Gino 
Severini. It was the Italian artists' first show in Germany, their third in northern 
Europe (after Paris and London). A German translation of the Futurist manifesto 
was published in the exhibition catalogue; in addition, Filippo Marinetti, who 
came to Berlin after the exhibition opened, distributed flyers of the manifesto 
around the city. The show was immensely popular, as Herwarth Walden's wife, 
Nell, herself a painter, testified: "Sometimes there were a thousand visitors per 
day. The press could complain as much as they wanted — which they did — but 
everyone wanted to see the exhibition. It was fashionable to have been there. "3" 

Despite its popularity, the exhibition was hardly a critical success. All the 
paintings were bought by a single private collector; the Futurists can thus hardly 
be said to have had a true following among the Berlin cognoscenti. The exhibition, 
which also traveled to Cologne, Munich, and Karlsruhe, was seen more as a 
sensation than as a serious presentation of high-minded art.^^ Nor were the 
Futurists accorded critical acclaim when they next showed in Berlin at Walden's 
Erstei Deutschei Herbstsalon (First German Autumn Salon) of 1913. Boccioni, 
Carra, Russolo, and Severini, along with Giacomo Balla and Ardengo Soffici, were 
criticized even by many progressive thinkers for failing to achieve the artistic goals 
of the avant-garde.-^^ 

For German artists, however — and particularly for Meidner — this exposure 
to Futurism was crucial, both in terms of subject matter and style. ^^ As we have 
seen, by 1910 Meidner was concentrating on desolate urban and, more frequently, 
suburban images. The focus of Futurism, however, was on life in the modern, fast- 
paced, energized metropolis. In "AnIeitung zum Malen von Grossstadtbildern" 
(An introduction to painting big cities), an essay written in 1914 in response to a 
questionnaire on a "new art program" circulated by the periodical Kunst und 
Kiinstler (Art and artists), Meidner criticized the Futurists' paintings as "shabby 
goods"''^ but praised their manifestos (his essay, in fact, duplicates the insistent 
tone and staccato cadences of Futurist writing). Like his Italian contemporaries, 
Meidner sang paeans to contemporary urban life: 

Let's paint what is close to us, our city world! the wild streets, the elegance of 

iron suspension bridges, gas tanks which hang in white-cloud mountains. 

E L I E L 



Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Land- 
scape), c. 1913, reverse of Revolution (Banika- 
denkampf) EU, oil on canvas, 3i'/2X45"/i6 in. 
(80x116 cm). Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen 
Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. 

Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Landscape), 1912, oil on canvas, 37X42'-y;6 in. I94XI09 cm). Private collection. 



Ibid,, 114-15. 

Ibid,, 115, 

The Futurist manifesto, translated in Venice 1986, 
514; the manifesto was originally published in the 
Paris newspaper Le Figaro on February 20, 1909, 

The Galerie Der Sturm exhibition included the 
following works by Boccioni: The Street Enters the 
House [a], 1911 Sprengel Museum Hannover: 
The Laugh. 1911 (Museum of Modern Art, New 
York); Simultaneous Visions, 1911 (Von der Heydt- 
Museum, Wuppertal); Modern Idol, 1911 (Collec- 
tion Mr. and Mrs Eric Estorick); and The Strengths 
of a SfreerlS, 1911 (private collection, on loan to 
the Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel. Kunst- 
museum). See Berlin 1912a. 4-6. 
Ibid,, 6. 

the roaring colors of buses and express locomotives, the rushing telephone 

wires (aren't they like music?), the harlequinade of advertising pillars, and 

then night . . . big city night ^9 

He concludes his essay with the words, "Wouldn't the drama of a well-painted 
factory smokestack move us more deeply than all of Raphael's 'Borgo Fires' and 
Battles of Constantine?'""^ echoing Marinetti's famous statement that "a racing car 
whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath — 
a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot — is more beautiful than the Victoiy 
of Samothiace.'"^'^ 

Meidner appropriated numerous aspects of the Futurist vocabulary for his 
own use, including interpenetration of forms, structural analysis and fracturing, 
and lines of force. The immediate effects on his apocalyptic landscapes are 
evident in the shift from A-pokalypti&che Vision M through Die Abgebrannten 
(Heimatlose) (The Burned-Out [Homeless] Ones) IZZl to Apokalyptische LandschaftM 
all painted in 1912. From the morbid coloration of Apokalyptische Vision Meidner 
first moved to the icy blues of Die Abgebrannten and then to the fiery tones of 
Apokalyptische Landschaft. The figures in the first work are dead or dying; those 
in the second seem frozen in place but with the possibility of future vitality; those 
in the third painting are in motion, desperately fleeing the tumultuous scene 
behind them. 

In Die Abgebrannten Meidner begins to fragment the landscape and the 
background structures, and the fractured forms and diagonal lines of force in 
Apokalyptische Landschaft clearly demonstrate how closely he had looked at 
the work of Boccioni in the Futurist exhibition. ''^ The Strengths of a Street EH in 
particular may have inspired him. Described in the catalogue accompanying the 
exhibition as depicting "the tendencies, dynamic power, life, ambience, anguish 
that one experiences in a city; the crushing sense of modern bustle, '"^^ Boccioni's 
canvas, like Meidner's, has very strong diagonals ultimately leading to the lower 
left corner, as well as dark areas interspersed with vivid monochromatic sections 
(in this case a blue-purple rather than sulphurous yellow tones). 

Meidner's drawings similarly reflect the stylistic importance of his encoun- 
ters with Futurism in 1912 and 1913. Those drawings that predate the Futurist 
exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm S E] are stable, static compositions. 
Apokalyptische Szene (Apocalyptic Scene) mi of 1912 was probably done during or 
immediately after the Italian show; the foreground still represents terra firma, but 
the buildings in the background have begun to topple while clouds explode and 
comets streak around them. By the following year Meidner's graphic style was 
quite clearly informed by Futurism, as evidenced by Wannsee-Bahnhof (Wannsee 


Umberto Boccioni, The Strengths of a Street, 
1911, oil on canvas, 39yi6X3i"/i6 in. (99.5x80.5 cm) 
Private collection, on loan to the Offentliche 
Kunstsammlung Basel, Kunstmuseum. 

Apokalyptische Szene (Apocalyptic Scene), 1912, 
pencil, i4'3/i6X 159/16 in. I37.6X39.5 cm). Marvin 
and Janet Fishman Collection, Milwaukee. 


Railroad Station) M, with its explosive energy, diagonal lines of force, and 
fractured forms. The repetition of figures as if seen moving through space illumi- 
nated by the flashes of a strobe light may refer specifically to Giacomo Balla's 
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash M, exhibited in the 1913 Eistei Deutscher Heibst- 
salon and illustrated in the accompanying catalogue. This repetition is taken to its 
extreme in Meidner's 1913 etching entitled Wogende Menge (Surging Crowd) H: not 
only the figures in their hats but the lampposts and building facades recur across 
the image in a resolute diagonal; despite the fact that some of the figures advance 
and some retreat, they form one flow of humanity. One of the few articulated faces 
in the scene, in the right foreground, may be that of the artist himself, grinning 
directly at the viewer as if sharing a secret. 

E L I E L 


Wannsee-Bahnhof (Wannsee Railroad Station), 
1913, ink with white highlights, i8V'i6X23"/4 in. 
146.5x59 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for Ger- 
man Expressionist Studies. 

Giacomo Balla, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 
1912, oil on canvas, 353/4X435/16 in. (90.8x110 cm) 
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; bequest of 
A. Conger Goodyear and gift of George 
F. Goodyear, 1964. 

Wogende Menge (Surging Crowd), 1913, etching, 
io"/i6x85/i6 in. (27.1x21.2 cm). Stadtische Kunst- 
sammlungen, Darmstadt. 

E L I E L 


Meidner In a letter of May 3, 1959; cited by Wilhelm 
F, Arntz in a document preserved in box 49, Wilhelnn 
F. Arntz Papers. Archives of the History of Art. The 
Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humani- 
ties. Los Angeles. 

The Futurist manifesto, translated in Venice 1986. 514 
Schulz-Hoffmann 1988. 12. 

It is worth noting here that a second factor besides the influence of 
Futurism may have been at work in Meidner's stylistic shift in 1912. Referring to 
Die Abgebrannten [zzl, the artist wrote in a letter of May 3, 1959, to the former 
owner of the painting that this was "the first free composition I did in those years; 
before this I had only painted from nature."'"'' It is likely that working from his 
imagination freed Meidner to make stylistic experiments he might not otherwise 
have attempted. 

Despite their affinities, there are very clear and crucially important distinc- 
tions to be made between the work of the Futurists and Meidner's apocalyptic 
landscapes of 1912-13. Futurism was emphatically supportive of aggressiveness and 
destruction: "We intend to sing the love of danger," they proclaimed in their mani- 
festo of 1909. "Courage, audacity and revolt will be essential elements of our 
poetry. . . .We intend to exalt aggressive action, feverish insomnia, the racer's stride, 
the somersault, the punch and the slap .... No work without an aggressive 
character can be a masterpiece." They specifically affirmed their love of war: "We 
will glorify war — the world's only hygiene — militarism, patriotism, the destructive 
gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for. . . ."''^ Meidner, 
however, saw destruction as an evil — a necessary, cathartic evil, perhaps, but 
ruinous and disruptive. In Boccioni's The Street Enters the House [zl of 1911, which 
was included in the 1912 Der Sturm exhibition, the Italian's centered and anchored 
composition nonetheless suggests the dynamism of contemporary urban life: 
shifting, swaying buildings and figures create an animated vortex; the viewer's 
roving eye continually returns to the blue-clad figure who stands at the eye of the 
storm, so to speak. Figures and architecture work in harmony, even fusing — 
as Boccioni suggests in his title — to create a melding of interior and exterior, of 
inhabitant and environment. In contrast, Meidner's 1913 canvas Ich und die Stadt IzH 
expresses the discord that exists between man and his urban environment, 
a notion heightened by the fact that the figure in this case is a self-portrait. Rather 
than converging into a constructive whole as do Boccioni's pictorial elements, 
Meidner's break apart; houses and clouds spin off the edges of the canvas while 
the artist himself attempts to flee the chaos behind him into the viewer's space. ''^ 
The compression of the painting reinforces this sense of anxiety; the small, dark 
figures along the right edge of the canvas look like mountaineers attempting a 
dangerous climb up an icy cliff. Meidner's dark, dusty colors also stand in marked 
contrast to the bright pastel tones of Boccioni's canvas. 

This notion of the dissonance between man and the city is evident in 
Meidner's drawings of 1913. In Betrunkene Strasse mit Selbstbildnis (Drunken 
Street with Self-Portrait) E] the artist's small figure runs breathlessly away from the 


Figur in nachtlicher Strasse (Figure in the Street at 
Night), 1913, brush and reed pen and India ink, 
i8yi6X23'/i6 in. (45.9x58.7 cm|-The Cleveland 
iVluseum of Art, Andrew R. and Martha Holden 
Jennings Fund. 


tipped lampposts and heavily outlined house facades that seem to have acquired 
feet to pursue him. His hands are raised in a protective gesture against this attack 
by a hostile environment. Figui in nachtlicher Strasse (Figure in the Street at Night) 
mi presents with almost hallucinogenic clarity a lone figure at center stage desper- 
ately attempting to escape the explosions behind him. He is dv^^arfed by buildings 
that loom to the left and right, their Vkfindows and doors seeming almost to take on 
the facial characteristics of eyes and mouths. These monstrous visages mock the 
lilliputian figure, whose outstretched arms fruitlessly seek human contact. 
The same effect is achieved in the drawing Ndchtliche Strasse in Berlin (Street 
in Berlin at Night) EH, also from 1913, with many figures rather than one, each 
nonetheless isolated in a personal urban nightmare while comets streak across 
the night sky. 

Similar disparities of scale, along with a confusion of interior and exterior 
spaces, occur in a drawing of September 1913, Ohne Titel (Strassenszene) (Untitled 
[Street Scene]) El. Of the six foreground figures, three appear half the size of the 

E L I E L 


Niichtliche Stiasse in Beilin (Street in Berlin at Night], 1913, India ink with brush and pen over graphite, 
i8'/4X2i"/i6 in. (46.3x55.1 cm). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sophie M. Freedman Fund (1986.9). 

Ohne Titel (Strassenszene) (Untitled [Street 
Scene)!, 1913, pen and ink on paper, i8'/8Xi6 in. 
(48x40.6 cm]. Los Angeles County Museum of 
Art, gift of Rabbi William Kramer. 

E L I E L 



The three paintings by Delaunay were The Tower, 

1911 (destroyed 1945); The City, No. 1, 1909 

(unknown private collection), and The City, No. 2, 

either a canvas of 1910 now in the Musee National 

d'Art Moderne, Paris, or another of 1911 in the 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York. 


Pans 1978. 26 


Scheyer (n.d.). 79-80 n. 52. This acquaintance is 

documented by a postcard signed by Meidner and 

fourteen of his colleagues that was sent to Delaunay 

in Paris in February of 1913 (Munich 1985. 501. 

document no. 13/23). The signatures included those 

of Herwarth and Nell Walden. writers Peter Baum. 

Rudolf Kurtz. Rudolf Leonhard. and Alfred Doblin 

and his wife. Erna. poets Alexander Mercereau and 

Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele. critic and poet Albert 

Ehrenstein, and publisher and producer Paul Zech. 


Leistner 1986b. 148. 


Meidner. "An Introduction to Painting Big Cities," in 

Miesel 1970. 112. 114. 

Others. One of the smaller group is an angry hunchback, another looks like a 
rag-doll ingenue, a third like a two-dimensional target. Among the larger figures, 
the two on the right are reminiscent of the masks of James Ensor and the anxiety- 
ridden figures of Edvard Munch. A large, misshapen head on an accordion-pleated 
neck hovers at the top of the composition like a jack-in-the-box that has exploded 
into the scene. While the houses in the background suggest an outdoor setting, the 
row of lights receding at the right recalls Meidner's many cafe interiors. Unlike 
Boccioni's harmonious merging of inside and outside, Meidner's scene is 
unsettling to the viewer. 

Included in the 1912 Futurist exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm were three 
paintings by Robert Delaunay."^ In the context of urban themes in German art, it is 
difficult at times to distinguish between Delaunay's influence and that of the 
Futurists, since the French artist was often lumped with his Italian contemporaries. 
Delaunay's direct contact with Germany began late in 1911 when Wassily Kandinsky 
asked him at the last moment for works to include in the first Blaue Reitei exhibi- 
tion, held in Munich from December 12, 1911, to January 3, 1912,- Delaunay obliged 
by sending four paintings and one drawing. ''s A version of this exhibition that 
included an oil study and a drawing by Delaunay opened at Der Sturm the follow- 
ing spring (March 12 -April 10, 1912), and early in 1913 Walden devoted his entire 
gallery to the work of Delaunay and the Futurist Ardengo Soffici, showing twenty- 
one works by the French artist from January i to February 20. 

Meidner knew not only Delaunay's work but the artist himself, having met 
him and the poet and critic Guillaume ApoUinaire in the Cafe Josty in Berlin in 
1913.'*^ The two artists exchanged photos of their work, Meidner studying in partic- 
ular the Eiffel Tower paintings 0, images of which he owned as early as 1912 in the 
form of Sturm-Karten (postcards sold by the Galerie Der Sturm). 5° Meidner's 
written tribute to Delaunay's art emphasizes its considerable significance to the 
German artist: "Robert Delaunay three years ago [1911] inaugurated our movement 

with his grand visions of the 'Tour Eiffel' Three things help us to structure a 

picture: light, point of view, and the use of the straight line,"^^ precisely those 
elements Delaunay used so successfully in his own urban images. 

Delaunay and the Futurists exalted the city in their canvases,- for Meidner 
the city was a thrilling but corrupt beast that devoured its inhabitants alive. While 
he longed for this catharsis, he also feared the catastrophic results. Unlike the 
work of Delaunay, therefore, who repeatedly focused on specific, glorious aspects 
of his metropolis (most notably the Eiffel Tower), Meidner's paintings, which evoke 
vitality and terror simultaneously, emphasize the general, alienating forces of the 
modern city: 



Robert Delaunay, Champs de Mais (The Red 
Tower), 1911, oil on canvas, 64x51'/! in. 
(162.6x130.8 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, 
Joseph Winterbotham Collection (1959. i). 


Meidner, ". , im Nacken das Sternemeer. . ," in 

Meidner 1918c, 26-27: translated in Milwaukee 

1976, 8. 


One exhibition of Munch's work was lield in Paris 

during Meidner's sojourn there, and there were six 

exhibitions in Berlin between December 1907 and 

January 1911: see Gordon 1974. vol. 1. 


Meidner frequently painted on both sides of his 

canvases to save money: see [ID and ED, ED and El. 

Ezl and lz»l, HI] and IM-, m addition, the frontispiece. 

HI, HD. and EU have paintings on the reverse not 

illustrated in this catalogue. 

Sometimes when I feel a nocturnal need I venture forth into the city. . . and 

hustle headlong along the pavements The screams of clouds echo around 

me, burning bushes, a distant beating of wings, and people shadowy and 
spitting. The moon burns against my hot temples — The city nears. My body 
crackles. The giggles of the city ignite against my skin. I hear eruptions at 
the base of my skull. The houses near. Their catastrophes explode from their 
windows, stairways silently collapse. People laugh beneath the ruins. ^^ 

The splintering, exploding, collapsing quality of Meidner's modern metrop- 
olis can best be seen in Apokalyptische Landschaft (SpTeehafen Berlin) (Spree 
Docks in Berlin) (H of 1913. Despite the sweet pastel tones of this painting, the 
destructive forces depicted in the image are overwhelming. The sky is fractured 
into hundreds of small pieces, and terrified figures flee from the destruction. The 
same explosive quality can be seen in the 1913 drawing Apokalyptische Stimmung 
(Apocalyptic Mood) EH, in which buildings fly apart into countless fragments, and 
even the clouds are torn asunder. 

Meidner's sense of the threat of modern urban life is brought home most 
forcefully in Apokalyptische Vision M of December 1913. Here, in a bleak urban 
landscape, a demonic male figure, spotlighted from above, victimizes a group of 
women. One of them already lies ravaged on the pavement, her hands clenched in 
agony, her breasts and vulva exposed, while her companions plead .to avoid a 
similar fate. The stark contrasts of the black-and-white drawing reinforce the 
infernal qualities of the scene. 

This fascination with the alienating aspects of the modern city suggests 
other influences less obvious than those of Futurism and Delaunay but important 
nonetheless. Meidner was very interested in the work of Norwegian artist Edvard 
Munch, which he had seen both during his stay in Paris and later in Berlin. ^3 His 
close attention to the numerous landscapes by Munch is confirmed by his land- 
scape Ezl painted on the reverse of Apokalyptische Landschaft M of 1913.5'' The 
sense of stillness and awe before the sweep of nature, as well as the dark outlines 
and repeated verticals of the stand of trees, are highly reminiscent of Munch's 
landscapes such as Train Smoke of 1900 El. In the fall of 1912 - that fateful year for 
Meidner - he would probably also have seen a work by Munch entitled Street in an 
exhibition at the Galerie Paul Cassirer. This painting can most likely be identified 
as Evening on Karl Johan StieetM, 1892, which epitomizes the restlessness and 
isolation to be encountered in the turn-of-the-century city (in this case Oslo, then 
known as Christiania). The mood of this image foreshadows the anxiety of 
Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes, although it is a robotic, straitjacketed anxiety 

E L I E L 


Apokalyptische Stimmung (Apocalyptic Mood], 
1913, graphite on cream paper, 23'''8Xi8 in. 
(58.7x45.7 cm). The Saint Louis Art IVIuseum, 
gift of Morton D, May. 



Apokalyptische Vision (Apocalyptic Vision), 
1913, ink and graphite, iiVsxiyVift in. (54.9 x 
43.6 cm). Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 


E L I E L 



Landschaft (Landscape), 1913, reverse oi Apoka- 
lyptische Landschaft (Ml, oil on canvas, iS'/ix 
3i'/l in. (67.3x80 cm). IVtarvin and Janet Fishman 
Collection, Milwaukee. 


For a detailed discussion of this painting, see Levine 



Weiss 1982. 67 

rather than Meidner's frenzied agitation. The direct influence of Munch's work 
may be evident in Meidner's drypoint engraving of 1913, Strasse in Wilmeisdoif 
(Street in Wilmersdorf) M. As in Munch's painting, numerous figures walk along 
the street (here, in the Wilmersdorf quarter of Berlin), yet they do not interact. 
Each is isolated, unable to touch or commune with the others. 

Meidner was not alone among his contemporaries in depicting apocalyptic 
themes. Franz Marc's Tieischicksale (Fate of the Animals) M, 1913, is certainly one 
of the most powerful apocalyptic images ever created. ^^ For Marc, as for all the 
Expressionists, the modern apocalypse was necessary for the emergence of a new, 
pure world. Despite the parallels between Meidner's work and that of Marc, who 
was likewise affected by his encounter with Futurism and the paintings of 
Delaunay, there does not seem to have existed any particular path of influence 
between the two artists. 

Wassily Kandinsky also incorporated apocalyptic imagery into his work, 
particularly that associated with Der Blaue Reitei. The blue rider himself filled an 
apocalyptic role, carrying "a message of exorcism, healing and salvation to the 
world. "^'5 We see this figure in Apokalyptische Reiter i (Horsemen of the Apoca- 
lypse i) M of 1911, which was included in the 1911 Blaue Reiter exhibition in 
Munich and, in the following year, in three exhibitions at the Galerie Der Sturm, 
where Meidner would have seen it. In this image the apocalyptic horsemen, 


Edvard Munch, TYain Smoke, 1900, oil on 
canvas, 33'/i6X42''/i6 in. (84x109 cm). Munch- 
Museet, Oslo. 

Edvard Munch, Evening on Karl Johan Street, 
1892, oil on canvas, 33/4x475/8 in. (84.5x121 cm) 
Rasmus Meyers Samlinger, Bergen. 

Strasse in Wilmeisdoif (Street in Wilmersdorf |, 1913, drypoint, isVsxiS^/ie in. (39x47.5 cm). Collection 
of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, 
gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley I. Talpis. 


E L I E L 



Franz Marc, Tierschicksale (Die Bdume zeigten 
ihre Ringe. die Tieie ihie Adein) |Fate of the 
Animals [The Trees Showed Their Rings, the 
Animals Their Veins]), 1913, oil on canvas, 
77'/i6Xi04y4 in. (196x266 cm). Kunstmuseum 


Wassily Kandinsky translated in Gordon 1987. 15. 

their mounts bursting with unbridled energy, furiously cleanse the world with arrow 
and sword. 

Kandinsky elucidated his idea of the link between apocalypse and creative 
act in Reminiscences, written in 1913: 

Each art work arises technically just as the cosmos arose — through catas- 
trophes, like the chaotic instrumental roar at the end of a symphony that is 
called the music of the spheres .... A great destruction with an objective 
effect is also a song of praise, complete and separate in its sound, just like a 
hymn to new creation which follows the destruction. ^^ 
As with Marc, however, although numerous parallels exist between Kandinsky's 
work and Meidner's, no direct influence can be determined. 

Of contemporary German painters, the most significant influence on 
Meidner in the context of apocalyptic imagery was Max Beckmann.The two first 
met in 1911 when one of Beckmann's students proposed Meidner to receive an 
anonymously funded monthly stipend of one hundred marks. Beckmann's opinion 
was solicited, and thus Meidner had the opportunity to show the more established 


Wassily Kandinsky, Apokalyptische Reiter 1 
(Horsemen of the Apocalypse I), 1911, oil paint 
behind glass, iiVsxS in. (29. 5x20. 3 cm|. 
Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. 

Max Beckmann, Szene aus dem Untergang von 
Messina (Scene from the Destruction of 
Messina), 1909, oil on canvas, 99'3/i6Xi03'/8 in. 
(253.5x262 cm). The Saint Louis Art Museum, 
bequest of Morton D. May. 


Max Beckmann, Aufersteiiung (Resurrection), 
unfinished, 1916-18, oil on canvas, i35'yi6X 
195 "716 in. (345x497 cm). Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 

E L I E L 


\ ^. 

Bombardement einei Stadt (Shelling of a City), 
1913, India ink, pencil, and tempera, i7"/i6X 
22'/i6 in. (45x56 cm). Berlinische Galerie, Berlin. 


artist his work. Not only was Meidner given the stipend, but he also gained Beck- 
mann's interest and friendship. ^s pjg ^^g sure to have known Beckmann's Szene 
aus dem Unteigang von Messina (Scene from the Destruction of Messina) 11, 1909, 
which was shown that year at the spring exhibition of the Berlin Secession. ^^ 
Beckmann had begun working on this painting after reading accounts in the local 
press about the catastrophic 1908 earthquake that had all but leveled the Sicilian 
city of Messina. Meidner was no doubt attracted to Beckmann's choice of a 
contemporary rather than a mythological, biblical, or historical apocalyptic theme. 
The tumultuous interweaving of bodies and the coloration of Beckmann's canvas 
found a resonance in Meidner's earliest painted treatment of the theme, Apokalyp- 
tische Vision of 1912 HI. 

The friendship between the two artists was cemented in 1912 after Beckmann 
saw the Pathetikei exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm. Once again intrigued by 
Meidner's work, Beckmann visited his studio and was greatly impressed by what 
he saw there. After this, the direction of influence seems to have been reversed, 
with Meidner's imagery now affecting Beckmann's city views. ^° By 1916 Beckmann 
had even adopted in his unfinished Aufeistehung (Resurrection) Ull the same Cubo- 
Futurist vocabulary that Meidner had embraced some four years earlier in his 
Apokalyptische Landschaft of 1912 Si. 

As the First World War approached, Meidner's apocalyptic images became 
more and more specifically related to military imagery. Bomb ai dement einei Stadt 
(Shelling of a City) M, 1913, depicts four uniformed figures conferring over strategy 
in the foreground while bombardiers blast the city beyond with cannon fire. Some 
of the inhabitants rush along the street in an attempt to escape annihilation, per- 
sonified by the angel of death hovering in the upper right corner; a few already lie 
dead or dying on the pavement. Most of the city is unaware of its impending 
doom, however; boats continue to ply the river, and thin wisps of smoke curl from 
the numerous chimneys of the Biiigei, who imagine themselves safe and sound in 
their homes. Am Vombend des Kiieges (The Evening before the War) M, from the 
beginning of August 1914, is even more explicit. It is the "Ultimatum," indeed, the 
point of no return: on August i, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia and two 
days later on France. 

The despair of Meidner's apocalyptic images becomes overwhelming in the 
58 three paintings created after the outbreak of war. Apokalyptische Landschaft [13 of 

Grochowiak 1966, 25. ■ j 1 1 n- 1 ■ 1 r- 111 ■ 1 ■ 1 1. 1 

gg 1915 IS a dark, hellish view: the fiery red sky glows ominously, casting ghoulish 

See Saint Louis 1984, cat, 10, for a discussion of shadows on the murky Scene below. The sky in Apokalyptische Landschaft M of 

Beckmann's painting. ^ n 111 1. 1 r 1 ^. . , . . 

gQ 1916 reflects the sulphurous light of the crescent moon. Figures with grimacing. 

Ibid,, 94-96, masklike faces appear to free-fall in the foreground, arms extended, clawing for a 

E L I E L 53 

Am Vorahend des Krieges (The Evening before 
the War), 1914, ink, 23X17V16 in. I58.5X44 cm). 
Stadtische Kunsthalle, Recklinghausen. 





Apokalyptiscbe Landschaft (Apocalyptic Land- 
scape), 1915, oil on canvas, 3i'/8X45'/4 in. (79X 
115 cm). Private collection. 


Apokalyptiscbe Landschaft (Apocalyptic 
Landscape), 1916, oil on canvas, 3l'/2X39y8 in. 
I80X100 cm|. Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie 

Conrad Felixmiiller, Der Tod des Dichters Walter 
Rheinei (Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner), 
1925, oil on canvas, 72 '5/16x513/16 in. (185x130 cm). 
The Robert Gore Rifkind Collection and Foun- 
dation, Beverly Hills. 

E L I E L 


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Der Jiingste Tag (The Last Day), 1916, oil on 
canvas, 39y8X59'/i6 in. (100x150 cm). Berlinische 
Galerie, Berlin. 




These figures foreshadow Conrad Felixmuller's great 

portrait. Der Tod des Dichters Walter Rheiner (Death 

of the Poet Walter Rheiner) Ell. 1925. in which the 

poet's despair, which led to his suicide, symbolizes 

the hopelessness of the entire postwar generation 

in Germany. 


Grochowiak 1966. 118-36. 


Meidnerto Franz Landsberger. February 21. 1934. 

Meidner-Landsberger Correspondence. Leo Baeck 

Institute, New York; cited in Scheyer 1971. 83, and 

translated in Scheyer (n.d.), 37. 


Meidner to Franz Landsberger. October 6, 1952. 

Meidner-Landsberger Correspondence. Leo Baeck 

Institute. New York: translated in Scheyer (n.d.). 57 


Meidner to Franz Landsberger. May 28. 1960. 

Meidner-Landsberger Correspondence. Leo Baeck 

Institute. New York: translated in Scheyer (n d). 68. 


Recklinghausen 1963-64: this exhibition traveled 

to the Haus am Waldsee in Berlin and the Kunst- 

halle Darmstadt- 

grip. ^1 In the center the black silhouette of a boat glides calmly on the river, like 
the bark of Charon ferrying souls across the river Styx to the underworld. The 
heavy impaste and distinctive brushstrokes of this painting are highly reminiscent 
of van Gogh. 

The final painting in Meidner's series of apocalyptic landscapes is Dei 
Jiingste Tag (The Last Day) M of 1916, the image in which he comes closest to a 
biblical apocalypse. The lost souls huddle together forlornly while great waves of 
energy sweep across the forbidding landscape. The composition is similar to that 
of traditional scenes of the Last Judgment, with those to be judged in the fore- 
ground and the heavens opening above them. Meidner returned to the apocalyptic 
theme only once more, in a drawing of 1920 entitled Apokalypse (Apocalypse) M, 
a graphic reinterpretation of the composition of Der Jiingste Tag. 

That Meidner's last treatments of the apocalyptic motif are the most biblical 
is significant, for in 1916 he began a series of works depicting prophets, sibyls, and 
saints, ^2 and religious themes — along with portraiture - became of paramount 
importance in his later work HI. In the mid-i920s, in fact, he became a very devout 
Jew; referring to this return to his ancestors' faith, Meidner later wrote, "Peace of 
mind was achieved, my years of struggle were over."^^ 

Despite this internal harmony, Meidner suffered for his religion. Already 
labeled a "degenerate" artist by the Nazi regime in 1935, Meidner left Berlin that 
November for Cologne, where he taught in a Jewish secondary school. Eighty-four 
of his works were confiscated from public collections in Germany by the Nazis,- 
three of these were included in the massive 1937 traveling exhibition Entaitete 
Kunst (Degenerate art). In August 1939, just before the invasion of Poland, 
Meidner and his family - he had married in 1927 - escaped to England, where he 
was later interned for a year (1940-41) as an enemy alien. Although he was not 
happy there, Meidner remained in England until 1952, when he returned to 
Germany, at first temporarily and then, in 1953, permanently, despite the fact that 
his wife remained in London, becoming a British citizen. "[Germany] is where I 
belong; here is my home," he wrote. '3'* He moved often, however, from Hamburg to 
Frankfurt to Marxheim and finally to Darmstadt, ultimately admitting that "for us 
[Jews] there is no real home here after all that has happened. ""^^ Honored only late 
in life by the German government, Meidner was finally accorded a retrospective 
exhibition in 1963"^^ and in 1964 was awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the 
Federal Republic of Germany and made a member of the Berlin Academy of Fine 
Arts. He died in Darmstadt on May 14, 1966. 

Meidner did not refer to his paintings as apocalyptic landscapes, with one 
exception, until his one-man exhibition at the Galerie Paul Cassirer in February of 

E L I E L 



Apokalypse (Apocalypse), 1920, ink and wash 
drawing, i^AexijVi in. (59.5x69.8 cm). Bernd 


1918. Instead, they bore more objectively descriptive titles such as Weltunteigang 
(Decline of the World), Pathetische Landschaft niit Fluss (Pathetic Landscape with 
River), Kosmische Landschaft mit Komet (Cosmic Landscape with Comet), and 
Landschaft mit verbranntem Haus (Landscape with Burned-Out House). ^^ 
Perhaps he did not realize when he created these images how powerful and 
timeless they would prove to be. We have survived the "war to end all wars," we 
have survived the Holocaust, but we now live in the nuclear age with the ever- 
present specter of total destruction. Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes speak to us 
as clearly today as they spoke to his contemporaries in 1912 and 1913, and their 
message is at least as important. Even as they suggest the impotence of humanity 
before greater forces, these images compel us to come to grips with our predica- 
ment: like the figure before the barricades, we must take our fate into our own 
hands before that option is forever denied us. 

Pauluspredigt (The Sermon of Saint Paul|, 1919, 
watercolor, 265/4X195/16 in. (68x49 cm). BuUer 
Collection, Duisburg. 


The one exception was the now-unidentifiable 
Apokalyptische Landschaft, number 13 in the 
Par/jer/'/re/' exhibition at the Galene Der Sturm in 
1912: see Berlin 1912b and Kunz 1973. 48. 

E L I E L 


Brcnnende Stadt (Burning City), 1913, reverse of Brennende StadttS, oil on canvas, li'Viix^i'Vie in. 
(68.5x80.5 cm). The Saint Louis Art Museum, bequest of Morton D. May. 

Eberhard Roters 

For Thomas Giochowiak 




That was a summer unlike any other, in the brooding, lowering metropolis of Berlin, high 
up on the sixth floor of a modest apartment house in Friedenau. That angry, vicious 
summer began in the spring of 1912; it was a strange and doom-laden time for me as 
none other ever was. I was very poor but not at all unhappy; I was charged with energy, 
full of mighty plans; I had faith in a magnificent future. I had made a home for myself 
under the blistering hot slate roof, in a cheap studio with an iron bedstead, a chair, a 
mirror, and a number of boxes that served as tables and closets, and on one of which 
there wobbled a spirit burner with a pot in which lentils, white beans, or potatoes 
simmered. Food was a minor matter, and I did not crave it, but sailcloth, bought cheap in 
the Wertheim department store, seemed the most valuable thing there was. I was in love 
with that canvas, which I stretched and grounded myself, and I went so far as to kiss it 
with trembling lips before painting those ominous landscapes. By the end of May the 
heat was getting hard to bear. But I was going to hold out. I was damned stubborn. What 
I lacked in skill I made up in boldness and insolence; I did not paint from life, but what 


my imagination told me to paint. Dripping with sweat, even when I threw off my clothes, 
it was so hard — oh, how hard it seemed to me to get down on canvas what I wanted to 
say. Still, I sweated, stamped, and slaved the long afternoons away until evening fell, that 
kindly Friedenau evening that was not kindly at all up in my little cell, but a time to sweat 
and to groan and to refuse to shake off the burden of toil, even for a few hours. Bathed 
in sweat, I felt like a heavy-jowled hound careering along in a wild chase, mile after mile, 
to find his master— represented, in my case, by a finished oil painting, replete with 
apocalyptic doom. I feared those visions, although the finished products gave me a 
strange, warm feeling of satisfaction, a slightly satanic joy. 

So it went on, day by day, every one of them sunny and scorching hot, all through 
June until the July moon eventually waned, still boiling hot, all through the hottest weeks of 
all, sweaty, unspeakably oppressive, devastating, arduous. But I never wavered: I conse- 
crated myself to the service of the unfathomable and the arduous, and did not weaken. ^ 


B his is Ludwig Meidner's retrospective description, written in 1964, of the 
circumstances in which he painted his first apocalyptic landscapes in 1912, when 
he was twenty-eight years old. Even fifty-two years later, he could still feel the 
oppressive, stifling heat of that scorching Berlin summer that had stirred him, in 
his garret studio in Friedenau, to a kind of madness: a creative madness, for in his 
description it is as if he were fighting off the intolerable burden of heat through 
his painting, as if the heat forced his visions out of him like sweat from his pores, 
as if in some way he sweated out his apocalyptic paintings. 

In an essay published in 1920, "Vision des apokalyptischen Sommers" 
(Vision of the apocalyptic summer), Meidner's memories lack the tranquil detach- 
ment of 1964: they show him still obsessed by the emotional torment that had 

Meidner 1964. 75; also cited in Grochowiak 1966, 29. driven him to work: 


I trembled, all that high summer through, in front of canvases that seethed 
with all the fuming anguish of earth, in every patch of color, in every scrap 

of cloud, and in every cascading stream My brain bled dreadful visions. 

I could see nothing but a thousand skeletons jigging in a row. Many graves 

and burned cities writhed across the plains July had beaten my brains to 

a froth with its implacable brightness and the white, noiseless heatstroke. 

But August pinioned me like a bird of prey, hacking at me with its beak 

August has a stale, sour smell of diarrhea and dead bodies And so I too 

welcomed the September breeze and was well again. The heat fell away from 
me and ebbed away gently in the starless nights, and the rain cooled my 
afflicted, death-marked brow.^ 

The intense influence of climate and weather on the making of works of 
art emerges strikingly from Meidner's descriptions. It is not hard to imagine the 
oppressive emotional impact of that 1912 heat wave, which began in April and 
lasted until the end of August. It must have been heat of the kind that precedes 
a storm, building up but never discharging, a heat like that which comes before 
thunder and yet holds it at bay, a nervous heat, charged with a constantly mount- 
ing electric tension that sensitive individuals could feel. Something uncanny 
was in the air: it was the presage of coming disaster. Thomas Grochowiak 
sets the scene: 

Then comes that strangely hot, extraordinary summer of 1912. Meidner is 
oppressed and prostrate and cannot tell why. And fear is all around: a terror 
of something monstrous seems to hang in the air. He visits [Erich] Meckel 
and [Ernst Ludwig] Kirchner and finds them in a similar, though less 
extreme, state. The most sensitive reaction is that of Kirchner, who has not 
yet painted his own compulsive visions (they will appear in 1917, in his color 
woodcuts for Petei Schlemihl], but who openly says that he fears some great 
catastrophe in the years to come.^ 

Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes have frequently been described as 
prophetic of the coming European war. The nervous tensions of that summer of 
1912 seem indeed to have aroused something clairvoyant in him. Meidner himself 
describes it: 

2 In the summer of 1912 I once more had oil paints and lunch. I unloaded my 

Meidner. "Vision des apokalyptischen Sommers," i- ^ 1 j-itj t^ 11/1 1 

in Meidner 1920 8 obsessions onto canvas day and night — Judgment Days, world s ends, and 

3 gibbets of skulls,- for in those days the great universal storm was already 

Grochowiai< 1966. 66. i_ ■ -^ ^ 1 j ■ ■ ^ ■ ii i i i . 

^ baring its teeth and casting its glaring yellow shadow across my whimpering 

Meidner. "Mein Leben." in Brieger 1919. 12. brush-hand.'* 

R O T E R S 65 


Title page from the portfolio Krieg (War), after 
1923, reproductive lithograph, is^/jxili'i in. 
(40x31.8 cm). The Robert Gore Rifkind Collec- 
tion, Beverly Hills. 





The coming disaster was already detectable in countless hints of rising 
tension across the European political landscape; each was insignificant when 
taken in isolation, but together they represented a constantly growing threat. 
Stefan Zweig recalls this mood in Berlin in the last few years before the outbreak 
of the First World War: 

Marvelous was this tonic wave of power which beat against our hearts from 
all the shores of Europe. But there was danger too in the very thing that 
brought joy, although we did not perceive it ... . France was puffed up with 
wealth; it wanted yet more, wanted a colony even though there was no 
superfluous population for the old ones .... Austria annexed Bosnia, Serbia 
and Bulgaria pushed toward Turkey, and Germany, still excluded for the 

time being, raised its paw for an angry blow The French industrialists 

with their big profits agitated against the Germans, who were fattening no 
less fast, because both of them, Krupp and Schneider-Creusot, wanted to 
produce more cannon. The Hamburg shipping interests with their huge 
dividends worked against those of Southampton, the Hungarian agricultur- 
alists against the Serbians, one corporation against another. The critical 
juncture everywhere evident had made them frantic for more and more .... 
In Germany a war tax was introduced in the midst of peace, in France the 
period of military service was prolonged. The surplus energy had finally to 
discharge itself and the vanes showed the direction from which the clouds 
were already approaching Europe. 

It was not yet panic, but there was a constantly swelling unrest; we 
sensed a slight discomfort whenever a rattle of shots came from the Balkans. 
Would war really come upon us without our knowing why and wherefore?^ 

On April 14-15, 1912, the Titanic, a fast passenger steamer of the British 
Cunard Line billed as the last word in technology and comfort, sank on her 
maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and 1,517 
people were drowned. This dramatic event unleashed a wave of horror in Europe 
and America alike. It was interpreted as a portent, an omen of retribution for 
society's overweening pride. (Etymologically, the word apocalypse does not stand 
for a catastrophe but a revelation, disclosing the hidden side of a cosmic crisis and 
the nature of its causes.) 

In the same year, under the impact of the news. Max Beckmann, also in 
Berlin, began his large painting Unteigang dei "Titanic" (The Sinking of the 
Titanic] HH. This work shows a marked affinity of mood to Meidner's apocalyptic 
5 landscapes. It shares their somber coloring and swirling, grinding rhythm, but it 

Zweig 1943.196-98. 

R O T E R S 67 

Max Beckmann, Unteigang, dei "Titanic" (The 
Sinking of the Titanic), 1912, oil on canvas, 
i04Vi6Xi29'Yi6 in, (265x330 cm|.The Saint Louis 
Art iVIuseum, bequest of Morton D. May. 

is far from possessing the same visionary power. In comparison with Meidner's 
paintings Beckmann's appears tame, careful, and conventional. The drama of the 
historic event does not strike the viewer with anything like the force of Meidner's 
imaginary scenes. Beckmann was not to find his true form until 1915, after the 
impact of his wartime experiences; in 1912-13 Meidner was still markedly his 
superior in expressive power. There was at the time, however, an affinity of inten- 
tion between the two artists. Beckmann's 1909 painting Szene aus dem Untergang 
von Messina (Scene from the Destruction of Messina) [H, for example, anticipates 
Meidner's "apocalyptic" form, somber coloring, and naked human bodies huddled 
among ruins, but without the same visionary power. This is partly because Beck- 
mann still avoided lurid colors and relied exclusively on a chiaroscuro based 
on brownish yellow tonal painting. Nevertheless, there are clear signs that, at a 
time when Beckmann was still masking his constitutional melancholy beneath a 
sophisticated persona, he recognized the genius of his contemporary. It was his 
recommendation that procured Meidner a monthly stipend of a hundred marks 


from an unknown patron. ^ In 1912, the year in which he was working on his 
Untergang dei "Titanic" and Meidner was painting his apocalyptic landscapes, 
Beckmann saw a number of Meidner's new works in the latter's studio; he was 
impressed and was later to testify "that the visit powerfully stimulated him and 
gave him fresh impulses."^ 

"The most powerful eruption of his creativity to date," wrote Lothar Brieger 
of Meidner, "took place in 1913, when, in his own words, 'many a young artist felt 
a premonitory nightmare lacerating his breast. '"^ But however heavily his premoni- 
tions of the gathering storm may have weighed upon Meidner's mind and helped 
to unleash his apocalyptic fantasies, it would nevertheless be wrong to assume that 
this sense of oppression was the only cause of the surge of creative energy that 
took place within him. The other causes lie much deeper: they stretch back into 
the existential roots of Meidner's individual nature and into the lessons and con- 
flicts of the early decades of his life, to which the artist reacted in a way specific to 
him. His artistic impulse sprang from the experience of desolation, misery, and 
bitter despair. He sublimated, through art, the physical and mental suffering into 
which he had fallen. Painting served him as a means of self-exploration and of 
managing his own fate. For Meidner, it was an act of existential self-liberation 
that rescued him from the depths of despair and restored him to himself. 

Meidner's way of painting was a struggle against the paint and the image. 
This battle, waged in effigy across the battlefield of the canvas, was the artistic 
transposition of a bitter struggle against himself. It was a life-and-death struggle: 
a struggle for sanity. The artist won it. "I was happy then," he remembered. It was 
a happiness that sprang from the liberating lust of battle. Meidner's paintings are 
not mere simulacra of a perilous existential venture; they are evidence of a crisis. 
This is the source of their effectiveness. The state of agitation in which they were 
painted can still be felt by any sensitive viewer. Therein lies their universality. 
Meidner's account of the "vision of the apocalyptic summer" continues: 
How the many years of a painter's life confine him! How wretched I was 
in that studio, with its reek of oil, and I hid my head in the glow of the 
gaslight. That was in the jubilant years before the war; and there was one 
summer, defiled by scabies, desperation, and madness, that I shall never be 
able to forget, because it made me old, and my youthful plans were blown 
away, and my courage crumbled. 
^ In a smock so plastered with paint drippings that it was as stiff as a 

Grochowiak 1966. 25. 

7 breastplate, girded with my insatiable palette and rapacious brushes, I stood 

't"<^ ■ 38 unwavering the whole night through and painted myself in a leering mirror. 

Bneger 1919. 5. I was undisturbed, and the only companionable sound was the murmur of 

R O T E R S 69 

my gas cooker, my teapot, and my tobacco pipe. The heat was the gasping 
breath of a conflagration. The stretchers creaked. The window stood wide 
open, and the stars rained down like rockets on my glacier-gleaming bald 
patch. How the dungeon color of that studio scorched me. Sun never thrust 
its bloody knife in there. But I turned as brown as August. The desert 
summer seethed within me, with vultures, skeletons, and shrieking thirst. 
I cried out inwardly for the far-off rattle and the trumpet blasts of future 
catastrophes. In my self-portraits was I not compelled to paint streams of 
blood and mangled wounds? Did I not crave comet-tails and blazing volca- 
noes in every background? I scraped, rubbed, honed my colors. But as I did 
so I wretchedly pawed at my own body, hung with its carapace of paint 
and hot with the hideous whine of scabies. O thou wild, distended belly, ye 
sharp limbs and cheeks split by devilish laughter — and laughing gave me no 
pleasure. I was at my wit's end. I poured floods of Balsam of Peru over my 
skin. It did no good. I was condemned to forced labor and a disgusting 
disease. I was all alone, with nowhere to turn. And every midday, when I 
arose from my corner, half-crazed with hideous dreams and dripping with 
ointments, the struggle began all over again; and at first light, when I went to 
bed, a foaming nightmare choked me, and I looked greedily across at the 
unfinished canvases and licked myself and writhed like a beaten dog. 
My sleep was as deep as subterranean caves, and bathed in sweat I awoke 
to greet the midday breeze. Tea shot me high into regions of shrillness. 
Voraciously, like a starving animal, I devoured a meager, self-made meal — 
And then the same toiling and moiling in front of the mirror until dusk fell. 
Until I was sticky with paint, drowning in the sickly mire of that stinking 
Balsam of Peru. Oh, then came moments of bliss. I moved the painting to a 
distance and saw a quivering star, a moonlike body stretching . . . . ^ 

Meidner is not only a major Expressionist painter but one of the most gifted 
of Expressionist poets. But respect for his power as a writer and the originality of 
his words and phrases should not lead us to suppose that this was simply litera- 
ture, a product of the poetic imagination. Meidner's text also deserves close study 
because it is a detailed, realistic description of the state of his studio and of his 
own body and mind. 

Meidner is a night worker. At night, in the "glow of the gaslight," the attic 
studio in Friedenau is filled with "dungeon color." The artist is "undisturbed," 
9 alone. He drinks tea as a stimulant, to keep himself awake. The gas cooker, the 

Meidner, -Vision des apokaiyptischen Sommers." teapot, and the tobacco pipe are the most important objects in the room, apart 

in Meidner 1920. 6-7, 


from the painting equipment. The stretchers creak. The studio stinks of oil. 
Meidner is in a smock that is "so plastered with paint drippings" that it is "as stiff 
as a breastplate." He feels unwell. He has what he calls "scabies" [die Krdtze), an 
irritating skin eruption, presumably an allergic reaction to the toxic ingredients 
then contained in the tubes of color that he used in such profusion. He has a 
"wild, distended belly," which is not surprising in view of the peas and lentils he 
cooks for his "meager, self-made meal." The wide-open window brings no relief 
because all that blows in is the sultry heat of the summer night. The artist anoints 
his itching skin over and over with Balsam of Peru, a thick, sticky fluid obtained 
from the South American tree Myioxylon balsamuin, which does not dry on 
contact with air and which emits a sickly, vanillalike odor. 

And so the painter stands in gaslight in his night studio, doubly encased in 
the hard carapace of the paint-encrusted smock and the soft, vile stickiness of the 
balsam within, its heady reek of vanilla mingling with the smell of oil and 
turpentine. Tea-sodden, in a mortal sweat, scratching his itching body, groaning, 
stamping, grunting, panting, and farting, he assails the canvas with his paints, lays 
down the brush, paints with his bare hands, curses, blasphemes, and prays. Far 
from alleviating his wretched physical state, his work exacerbates it; but in his 
creative frenzy he transcends it all, liberating his inner self and finding release in 
raising his sensations from the physical to the metaphysical and from the psychic 
to the metapsychic.This struggle that the artist wages every night in his studio — 
the battle against canvas, paint, and himself — is an orgy of solitude, an orgy of 
introversion. It rises to a paroxysm: drunk with the smells and the stenches that 
surround him, the artist attains a state of suspended consciousness that has a 
hallucinatory power. 

It is from this state that his paintings are painfully born. In the studio mirror 
Meidner sees his own nocturnal face, strangely modeled by the gaslight. He is dis- 
gusted by himself; he hates himself; he makes faces at his mirror image and peers 
like a hunter in a blind at his own "glacier-gleaming bald patch." He is hunting 
himself. With implacable, grim precision he studies his own physiognomy. 
It amuses him to grimace, and the pitiless relish with which he observes himself 
leads him on to paint, in self-mockery, a spectral self-portrait that confronts the 
world with a savage grin. Look! This is how I look — I, Ludwig Meidner. 

All this takes the greatest courage imaginable, a courage directed not 
outward but inward, toward an encounter with the self. The diminutive, scrawny 
Meidner had that courage. It is the courage of desperation, but it is also the 
courage proper to genius in painting. Rembrandt also had it. Like the great Dutch 
artist, Meidner painted many self-portraits that testify to an exploration of the 

R O T E R S 71 


Ibid.. 7. 

Ibid., 8. 

self. The wildest of them date from those prewar years: they are audacious land- 
scapes of the human face. Such works as the 1912 self-portrait (H have a direct 
connection with the apocalyptic landscapes, which, by his own testimony, he was 
painting concurrently. Just as Meidner's portraits are like landscapes — "I moved 
the painting to a distance and saw a quivering star, a moonlike body 
stretching .... "^° — the apocalyptic landscapes are his face turned inside out, his 
inner countenance. 

I squashed countless indigo and ocher tubes, and a painful impulse 
prompted me to break up everything that had a straight line. To spread 
ruins, rags, and ashes across every scene. I always built on my rocks the 
ruins of houses, sorrowfully split, and the lament of the bare trees twitched 
against the croaking skies. Like calling, warning voices, mountains hung 
suspended in the distance, the comet gave a hoarse laugh, and airplanes 
swooped like hellish dragonflies amid the yellow nocturnal storm." 
Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes of 1912 did not spring directly from his imagina- 
tion; he had long been carrying them within himself. They are already subliminally 
present in his street scenes, in which the apocalypse can be felt emerging, through 
the aroused and arousing movements of his hand, from the motif of the street and 
the urban landscape. The street bears the apocalypse within itself; it is pregnant 
with catastrophe and will give it to the world when the fruit of its womb is ripe. 
The apocalypse appears, in Meidner's paintings, as the child of the city. 

There are two places that serve to define the life and art of the young 
Meidner: the street and the studio. The street is a way out; the studio is a retreat. 
Both represent flight, outward in one case, inward in the other: Ich und die Stadt, 
"I and the city." 

In 1908, at the age of twenty-four, after his return from a stay in Paris, the 
artist resolved to live only for painting and to renounce any prospect of gainful 
employment that might stand in the way. His parents disapproved of their son's 
choice of career and refused to support him. The consequences are described by 

What followed was an indescribably wretched life, like the life of a vagrant. 
Waste from the street markets might often serve to still his hunger, but 
nothing could allay the twenty-four-year-old Meidner's mental and spiritual 
anguish. He hung about in reading rooms all day, devouring Grabbe, 
Holderlin, Nietzsche, Villon, Baudelaire, Whitman; or he was to be seen 
sketching on the street somewhere, at fairgrounds, building lots, the docks, 
or in front of ugly monstrosities of mechanical engineering. He had no 

Grochowiak 1966, 25 money for canvas or oil paints. 



Selbstbildnis (Self-Portrait), 1912, oil on 
canvas 315/16x235/3 in. (79.5x60 cm). Hessisches 
Landesmuseum Darmstadt. 

R O T E R S 



Meidner lived in gloomy and sordid hovels. During his first stay in Berlin, 
in 1907, he had lived in an "absurd, drafty caboose up on the roof,"^^ and his 
successive studios never lost that cavelike, black, stuffy, eremitic quality, like the 
cell of a mendicant friar. It clung to him. In the end he needed it: it stimulated 
him. Meidner's attic studio in Friedenau, in which he painted the apocalyptic 
landscapes, is described by Grochowiak as "a hole of a garret, dark as a cavern, 
dominated by a pile of ashes and refuse."^'* But even when he was doing a little 
better financially and had moved to a larger studio on Landauer Strasse in the 
Wilmersdorf section of Berlin, he ensured that the most personal space of his 
artistic life retained its dismal character: 

In that spacious studio there stood a big iron stove,- because it was so far 
down to the street, it was troublesome to carry the ash down. So it gradually 
piled up in a great heap in the center of the floor. This tower was a unique 
phenomenon and was much talked of in artistic circles. Someone informed 
on Meidner. A patrolman came up and got very tough. The ash mountain 
had to be disposed of within twenty-four hours. It stayed anyway. Meidner: 
"I collected the bones from spareribs and tossed them around. Then people 
started to talk.''^^ 
Ash has a color scale of its own: rusty brown, ocher yellow, black, dark gray, light 
gray, white, chalky, pale. This is the palette of death and graves, of the underlying 
earth. It is the foundation of all Meidner's apocalyptic landscapes. 

Artists' studios are normally bright, evenly lit places; this tends to be 
regarded as a basic requirement. Meidner's studios were dark. Into the darkness of 
his cell, into the place where he retreated into himself, he brought the reflection of 
the street; he took the street home with him. 

Meidner was a great urban walker. He tells us of his student days: "Every 
free hour I had, I walked around the smoke-blackened, quaint, surprising, and 
unimaginably wonderful streets of Breslau."^^ Such restless wanderings are, of 
course, one way of working off loneliness. In Berlin, a very different city from 
Breslau, he resumed his long walks. The bright downtown lights of the Hohenzol- 
lernstadt around the imperial palace or of the Neue Westen along the Kurfiirsten- 

ibid . 21. damm held no attraction for him: he was drawn to the gray suburbs, out past 

endless, monotonous rows of tenements into a landscape of gas tanks, cranes. 

Meidner was slightly built and diffident. "Small in stature, I was very 


Ibid-. 38. 

15 excavations, and railroad viaducts 

Ibid., 140, 

Meidner, 'Hymne auf den heiien Tag," in Meidner bashful. My features [were] delicate, benign, full of Suppressed fire, and no one 

^^ took much notice of me."^^ Beneath this unassuming exterior there burned the 

Ibid fiery temperament of an ecstatic. The artist's soul, drunk with color and form, was 



. 55. 








Briegerl919, 8. 

Meidner, ". , im Nacken das Sternemeer " 

in Meidner 1918c. 26. 

Kunz 1973, 22. [The word Pathos in German sug- 
gests not pity but an urgent immediacy of expres- 
sion; Stefan Zweig, in tfie magazine Das neue 
Pathos (The new pathos), described it in terms of 
an "onrush of emotion" (Uberschwang der Empfin- 
dung): see the passage cited on page 90 —Trans.] 

naturally susceptible to the influence of Eros and yearned for fulfillment, not only 
physical but also spiritual: "Those smiling, quizzical girls, my classmates, soft- 
cheeked and white as Silesian rolls l''^^ Another memory of student days in Breslau: 
"The girls at the easels were fresh as new-plucked fruit, and the Jewish ones 
among them still had a hint of the flower in the Song of Songs. "^^ 

In Berlin he lost his heart to a little tramp of an actress from Munich, to 
whom he wrote lengthy love letters. "She occasionally tossed me a scribbled scrap 
of a note, which I eagerly snatched up and crumpled in my excitement — Then 
she borrowed fifty marks and left me flat. That was enough. I shall never go 
begging again. "2° 

Everything fell into place. In every sense Meidner was cast back on his own 
resources; he was back to zero, and this was the source of his creative power. 

A high-strung soul, constantly agitated and sensitive, listens for echoes of 
himself, not only in his fellow human beings but in the whole of Nature, 
in the room and in the house, in the street and in the atmosphere; he 
dismembers forms in order to detect and grasp the unending vibration of his 
own soul in everything; when he believes that he has found it, he crams 
them together into new forms in a creative rapture. ^^ 

For his urban wanderings, through the nights and into the gray light of 
dawn - "What drives me out into the city so, why these mad chases along the 
boulevards?"22 - Meidner had found a companion, a friend as riven with inner 
torment as he himself; the poet Jakob van Hoddis (Hans Davidsohn). Since the 
middle of 1910 van Hoddis, a cofounder of Dei Neue Club (The New Club), had 
been organizing the performances at Das Neopathetische Cabaret (The Neopathetic 
Cabaret) in Berlin, that fountainhead of genius from which German literary 
Expressionism emerged. He and Meidner resembled each other in many ways. His 
creative processes, like Meidner's, tended toward the convulsive. "When he was 
composing a poem, it showed itself physically: he shivered and foamed at the 
mouth"; like Meidner, he was a man of Pathos.-^ We can imagine the two of them, 
Meidner and van Hoddis, tramping the dark streets, bound together by their shared 
loneliness. They were about the same height: the little, scrawny, balding Meidner, 
who looked as if a breath of wind might blow him away, and the short, stocky van 
Hoddis, with his unruly shock of hair. Both were steeped in apocalyptic imagery. 
Meidner was to recall their walks together: 

We used to leave the Cafe des Westens after midnight and march, straight- 
backed, quite fast, right ahead through the streets, following our noses. 
While I, as a painter, peered around, enjoying the lively chiaroscuro, van 

R o T E R s 


Plate from the portfolio Krieg, (War), after 1923, 
reproductive lithograph, 153/4x12 '/i in. I40X 
31.8 cm). The Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, 
Beverly Hills. 



Hoddis seemed not to look at anything around him, but he took it all in and 
saw things that the painter ought to have seen: he did not look at the world 
like a literary person. And the same went for the way he marched along. 
Van Hoddis did not walk with the effeminate gait of an aesthete but bounced 
and stamped down the roadway like a musketeer; for we kept off the side- 
walk We were twenty-eight at that time and had plenty of stamina; first 

light found us still marching on, not at all tired, and the early sun was well 
over the rooftops before we asked each other what part of town we were in. 
Mostly it was the far north or northeast, but the rows of buildings continued, 
those cheerfully dismal Berlin apartment blocks, with their countless 
dismally cheerful balconies. Here and there were the first eyewitnesses to the 
coming Berlin weekday, which in those days, for all its homely plainness, did 
not seem plain and banal but beautiful, magnificent, unique, even sublime, 
and inexpressibly delightful. 

We were so in love with that city.^* 

Jakob van Hoddis wrote at the time: 

We plod OUT homeward way, distraught and old. 
The garish yellow night has faded. Up on high, 
We see beyond the street lights, far and cold. 
The dark blue luminescence of the sky.^^ 

"Distraught and old": nights on the street and nights in the studio, paint and ashes, 
a garish darkness. The overwhelming mass of dammed-up emotion that had built 
up in Meidner's shy, hypersensitve soul — anger, rage, pain, suffering, yearning, 
disappointed love, a highly unstable jumble of feelings that cried out for release — 
burst out of him in his loneliness, erupted within him, and hurled forth imaginings 
that cried out to be made into images. The canvas served him as a screen for 
projection. In obedience to an overwhelming impulse he reached out for his brush 
and paints, and in a storm of creativity his torment became ecstasy. He squandered 
his paints, hurled them onto the canvas, pressed, kneaded, smeared, sprayed, went 
berserk: an orgasm of color hurled into the blackness. The street begins to dance: 
Teeming Paris blue on white chalk grounds; cynical, cackling zinc yellow; 
white and ivory black: the color of bedridden old people; permanent green 
next to screaming cinnabar; umber, bright cadmium, and fiery ultramarine — 
24 existence absolutely must be trapped between firm, fat tubes of oil paint. 

Meidner. "Ennnerungen an Jakob van Hoddis." in ir i r i- ii i i 

Kunz 1973 69-70 You must lock yourself in between four ash gray studio walls, clamber 


Jakob van Hoddis. "Aurora." in van Hoddis 1987, 14 

around in front of big canvases, curse lonely curses, rage, scratch, and grip 

R O T E R S 77 

Nen anznlegende Stiasse in Beriin-Wilmersdorf 
(Newly Laid-Out Street in Berlin-Wilmersdorf |, 
1911, oil on canvas, 26y8X3i'/2 in. (67x80 cm). 
Berlin Museum. 


Meidner, "Nachte des Malers," in Meidner 1918c, 



Grochowiak 1966,78 

one hell of a palette in your fist. . . .1 often stand in front of the canvas 
witless and drained, and crack my unshaven, freckled cheeks Vk^ith a grin; 
then, from the stubborn pats of chrome an outline jumps out at me, the 
cinnabar starts to shriek, and a wonderful world of confusion gradually 
builds itself up beneath my stiff-bristled brush. Yes, colors, colors without 
number! I shall marry into an oil-color factory. My wife will bring as her 
dowry a thousand tubes each of umber, ocher, cobalt, Kremnitz white, and 
madder. My wife will be jagged, frenetic, hot! . . . Such nights sharpen me! At 
the tip of my brush, my soul smiles and joins in the chorus of my impastoed 
forests. Heat blazes around me; hot songs press to escape from me; a terrible 
force stirs within my breast. ^^ 
In a process that can be traced step by step in Meidner's paintings, the static image 
of the street is lashed into a tumult by the inflammatory fervor of the painter's 
brushstroke and jolted by the mounting tremors of an imaginary earthquake. 

Meidner's early works, Bau der Unteigrundbahn in Berlin (Subway Construc- 
tion in Berlin) E], 1910, and Neu anzulegende Stmsse in Beilin-Wilmersdoif (Newly 
Laid-Out Street in Berlin-Wilmersdorf) Hi, 1911, are painted in a Fauvist style, but 
with a restrained handling that differs little from the general practice of the time. 
Such paintings would certainly have been accepted without difficulty for the 
annual exhibitions of the Berliner Secession. But Gasometei in Berlin- Schoneheig 
(Gas Tank in Berlin-Schoneberg) HH, 1911, has an unprecedented air of unrest: the 
first hints of the coming upheaval, a faint seismic tremor that communicates itself 
from the excavated earth to the buildings. The color, too, begins to change. The 
light acquires a pallid, uneasy tinge of lilac. Looked at out of the corner of the eye, 
Stilleben (Still Life) Eel, 1912, might, if it were not a still life, be seen as an apoca- 
lyptic landscape. Using the innocuous subject matter as a pretext, the composition 
expands in all directions away from its center. The artist's temperament, trans- 
ferred to his handling, sets the whole scene in motion. 

Two Berlin townscapes of 1913 have double titles: they are already called 
apokalyptische Landschaften (apocalyptic landscapes) but also bear what are 
presumably their original titles of Spreehafen Berlin (Spree Docks in Berlin) [zi and 
Beim Bahnhof Halensee (Near the Halensee Railroad Station; frontispiece). In his 
essay "Anleitung zum Malen von Grossstadtbildein" (An introduction to painting 
big cities) Meidner writes, "A street does not consist of tonal values: it is a bom- 
bardment of light beams whizzing between the rows of windows, between vehicles 
of every kind, and a thousand bobbing balls, scraps of people, billboards, and 
roaring, shapeless masses of color. "^^ The street is a bombardment in itself. 
Its dynamism has set all the adjacent outlines trembling. The masses topple into 


Gasometer in Berlin- Schoneberg, (Gas Tank in 
Berlin-SchonebergI, 1911, reverse of Stillehen tS, 
oil on canvas, 26y8X3i'/i in. (67x80 cm). Staats- 
galerie Stuttgart. 

StiUeben (Still Life), 1912, reverse of Gasometer 
in Beilin-Schoneber^ EE, oil on canvas, 26y8X 
3154 in. (67x80 cm). Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 

R O T E R S 



Betrunkene Strasse mit Selbstbildnis (Drunken 
Street with Self-Portrait), 1913, ink with white 
highlights, i8'/8X23y8 in. (46x58.8 cm). Saarland- 
Museum, Saarbriicken. 

each other. The steel frames twitch convulsively. All is uproar, and from this 
uproar the urban landscape creates its own apocalypse through its inherent brute 
energy. Or, to put it another way, the image of the street lurches like a drunk: 
a pen drawing of Meidner's, dating from 1913, is called Betrunkene Strasse mit 
Selbstbildnis (Drunken Street with Self-Portrait) EI]. Along the rows of buildings, 
which part to the right and left, crushed against the left edge of the picture there 
totters a human figure. 

Ich und die Stadt (I and the City) (zll is a key picture in Meidner's output. 
Here the link is made between the self-portrait and the urban experience. The 
correspondence between experience and consciousness, between outer and inner 
worlds, between environment and emotion is brought into the open. The artist's 
head is forced toward the bottom of the picture by the collapsing city. Alterna- 
tively, the city seems to be an event issuing from the artist's head, like an 
exploding aura. The head is the energy focus of the detonating city. 

A comparison with Umberto Boccioni's painting The Street Enters the 
House El of 1911 suggests itself immediately, especially as it is certain that Meidner 
saw the Italian Futurist exhibition at Herwarth Walden's Galerie Der Sturm in 1912. 



Meidner. "Hymne auf den hellen Tag." in Meidner 

1918c. 59. the signs of catastrophe: fires are started. 

In both paintings the contours of the facades of the buildings lurch and fall 
and the human being in the foreground is contrasted with the animation of the 
city. But in comparison with Meidner's composition, Boccioni's seems almost cozy, 
even gemiitlich. Boccioni's foreground form is the figure of a woman, seen from 
behind, who leans over the balcony to watch the workmen in the street, whereas in 
Meidner's painting it is the face of the artist himself, confronting us in despera- 
tion. The explosion of the city is the centrifugal disintegration of his own head. 
Boccioni's animation has a programmatic origin, and the programmatic element 
adheres to the composition; its effect lingers. The painting is dynamic, but not 
ecstatic. In it there is no self-doubt and, consequently, no mystical element. 
For all its compositional similarity to Futurism, Meidner's Expressionism has other 
and deeper sources. He looks back to Bosch, Griinewald, Altdorfer, Bruegel, but his 
real affinity is to the masters of the Baroque. He tells us of a river trip in his 
student days: 

We floated past the monastery of Leubus, landed, and I marveled that the 
Germans could have so completely forgotten one of their greatest painters, 
that powerful artist Michael von Willmann. A crazed Baroque soul who 
hurled onto his canvas a world of fiery ardor, martyrdom, and blood-lust. 
The abbey church with its blazing images lit a torch in my exultant breast. ^^ 
A painter-mystic from eastern Germany, Michael Willmann, who was born in 1630 
in Konigsberg, East Prussia, and died in 1706 in the monastery of Leubus, Lower 
Silesia, was a contemporary of the seventeenth-century Silesian mystical poet, 
Angelus Silesius. His powerful and expressive painting, fueled by ardent religious 
emotion, recalls the work of an even greater artist: El Greco. Although, as far as 
I know, Meidner never mentioned El Greco, a deep affinity exists between his 
painting and the somber, contorted art of that solitary genius of the Baroque. 
El Greco's View of Toledo [z3 is an apocalyptic landscape, closely related across the 
centuries to Meidner's paintings. 

The uprooted, shifting, dancing, drunken, heaving, bursting city in 
Meidner's paintings obeys the painterly gesture that prods the urban scene into 
movement and thereby reveals an inherent capacity for self-destruction within that 
scene: the city brings forth its catastrophe from within itself. In the particular 
apocalyptic landscape that bears the additional title Spieehafen Berlin [zi the metal 
structure of the elevated railroad disintegrates with a hiss in the blue-white light 
of a blazing electrical storm whose convulsive zigzag rhythm hurls the whole 
scene into an uproar. And yet, it is clear that, objectively, nothing has happened; 
the tremor is a thing of the mind. But the imagination imperiously demands 

R O T E R S 81 



Ich und die Stadt (I and the City], 1913, oil on 
canvas, liYsxi^'Vii in. (60x50 cm|. Private 


Umberto Boccioni, The Street Enters the House, 
1911, oil on canvas, 395/8x393/8 in. (looxioo cm). 
Sprengel Museum Hannover. 

El Greco, View of Toledo, 1604/14, oil on canvas, 
473/4x423/4 in. (121.3x108.6 cm). The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, New York, bequest of Mrs. H. O. 
Havemeyer, 1929. The H. O. Havemeyer 
Collection (29.100.6). 



Apokalyptische Landschaft (Spieehafen Berlin) 
(Apocalyptic Landscape [Spree Docks in 
Berlin]), 1913, oil on canvas, 3i''/8X45"/i6 in. 
(81x116 cm). Saarland-Museum, Saarbriicken. 

No flames arise from the Brennendes (Pahiik-) Gebdude (Burning [Factory] 
Buildings) El of 1912: we see only thick, cold, black columns of smoke rising into 
a blue sky. But after that all hell breaks loose. Meteors fall [zi, bombs drop, and 
flames shoot up from the houses [H. With a roar, gouts of flame from a dark sky 
reach out across the streets mi; a massive, blinding white flash — a premonition of 
an atomic explosion — shakes the earth, the stars retreat, and the light of a red sun 
seems pathetically faint against the sinister glare. 

From 1911 onward Meidner took an interest in the predicament of the 
human figures, the victims of the cataclysm, who are left behind, living, dead, 
or half-dead, in his apocalyptic landscapes El. In 1912 he painted Apokalyptische 
Vision (Apocalyptic Vision) SI and Die Ahgehrannten (Heimatlose) (The Burned- 
Out [Homeless] Ones) ED. Those who remain after the destruction of the city are 
the dead; when in a late Apokalyptische Landschaft [13 wraithlike figures creep out 
of their holes, amid the terminal darkness and devastation of the end of the world, 
and settle resignedly on the ground, it is uncertain whether they are the last of the 
living, waiting only to be buried, or the first of the dead, awaiting resurrection. 
A final apocalyptic painting is called Der Jiingste Tag (The Last Day) S. And so 
Meidner's landscapes between 1911 and 1916 form a distinct and coherent series, 
a relay race, which begins with Gasometer in Berlin- Schonebeig and ends with 
Der Jiingste Tag. 

As nocturnal hermits go, Meidner was comparatively sociable. He needed 
contact with other people, and he found it not in dance halls - like his fellow 
Expressionist painters, the Briicke artists — but in regular visits to the Cafe des 
Westens, which was mainly a haunt for writers. Here he sensed that there were 
kindred spirits who might understand him, and so it proved. From 1912 onward 
he was the host at regular Wednesday gatherings in Friedenau. One senses the 
fascination that Meidner's murky, picturesque wreck of a studio had for his writer 
friends. The setting in itself must have endowed the proceedings with the air of a 
conspiracy. It was a conspiracy of the avant-garde: Meidner's studio was the first 
place in Berlin, public venues apart, where the young writers and artists of Expres- 
sionism were able to meet.^^ 

Meidner had come into contact with a number of poets even before the 
Wednesday evenings started, including Georg Heym at Das Neopathetische 
Cabaret?^ He felt drawn to the poets known as the Neopathetiker because they 
were prophets of doom in poetry, just as he was in painting. It was the apocalyptic 
29 spirit that launched German Expressionism. Two poems describing the end of the 

" ■ " ■ world, van Hoddis's "Dem Biirger fliegt vom spitzen Kopf der Hut" (From burgher's 

Ibid.. 12. pointed head the hat flies off) and Heym's "Aufgestanden ist er, welcher lange 


Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Land- 
scape), 1912/13, oil on canvas, iSVsx^^oVs in. 
(67x78.5 cm|. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 



Die Abgebiannten (Heimatlose) (The Burned- 
Out [Homeless] Ones), 1912, oil on canvas, 
24'3/i6X33'/i6 in. (63x85 cm|. Hauswedell & Nolte, 


Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Landscape), 1913, reverse of Landschaft ED, oil on canvas, 
26'/iX3i',''2 in. (67.3x80 cm). Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, Milwaukee. 



Heym 1964, 


Heym, "Nach der Schlacht" (September 1910), in 

Heym 1964, 124 


Heym. "Die Damonen der Stadte" (December 1910), 

in Heym 1964, 186-87 


Heym, "Der Gott der Stadt" (December 1910), in 

Heym 1964, 192. 


Heym, "Verfluchung der Stadte" (February 1911), in 

Heym 1964. 220-21 


Heym. "Der Krieg I" (September 1911). in Heym 

1964. 346-47 


Heym. "Gebet." draft of the second version 

(September 1911). in Heym 1964. 356. 


Heym. "Hingeworfen viele tausend Leiber." in "Der 

Krieg II." first draft (September 1911). in Heym 1964. 



Heym. "Der Krieg 11" (September 1911). in Heym 

1964. 360, 


Heym, "Auf einmal aber kommt em grosses Sterben" 

(October 1911). in Heym 1964. 422-23 


Heym. "Die Menschen stehen vorwarts in den Stras- 

sen" (October 1911). in Heym 1964. 440-42. 


Heym. "Die ertrinkenden Stadte sind dunkel und 

voir (November 1911). in Heym 1964. 455, 


Heym. "Von toten Stadten ist das Land bedeckt" 

(November 1911), in Heym 1964, 471. 


Heym. "Der Gastempel." in Heym 1964. 194, 

schlief " (He has arisen^ who long slept ), went the rounds like wildfire and 

are now regarded as key documents of the contemporary mood. 

But it must be borne in mind that Heym's famous poem did not appear out 
of the blue. Just as Meidner worked his way up to the apocalyptic landscapes step 
by step, expressing his own psychic mood, Heym, while still in high school or 
recently out of it, worked through a personal predilection for macabre content and 
provocative morbidness. His poems, peopled with lunatics, floating cadavers, 
murderers, and suicides, start out quite clearly as protests directed at the despised 
generation of his parents and teachers. From there, with horrid relish he gradually 
intensifies his imagery to encompass visions of war and doom. 

The process begins with the desolate battlefield scene, "Marathon," of 
March 1910,^^ in which the image is still tied to a historic event, a familiar feature 
of a humanistic education. To sketch his further evolution into a visionary poet, it 
suffices to quote the first lines of a few poems in chronological sequence, creating 
a striking parallel to Meidner's own developing imagery: 


. 33 


In the May seed-fields the bodies lie close-packed. 
Onward they pass through the night of the cities. . 
The city's god, perched on a city block ..,.34 
The white gates, marked with a black device, 
A death's head seal . . . . ^s 

He has arisen, who long slept ^e 

Great God, who sittest on the floodgates of war. . . . 

Scattered, so many thousand bodies ^s 

Scattered far out across the burning land. . . 
And all at once there came a great dying. . . 
People stand out in the streets 
And stare at the great celestial signs — "^^ 
The drowning towns are dark and full . . . . ^^ 
With dead towns the land is decked , . . . ''■^ 

Like Meidner, Heym takes the city as his point of departure, and they have found 
similar images through which to speak, each in his own chosen medium. The 
same gas tank that Meidner painted in 1911 was the subject of a poem by Heym 
in January of the same year: "In evening red the giant structure looms in deep 
blue space..,."'"' 

The name Die Pathetiker (The Pathetic Ones) was assumed by the group 
of three painters — Meidner, Richard Janthur, and Jakob Steinhardt — whose show 
at the Galerie Der Sturm in 1912 first drew attention to Meidner's apocalyptic 


Plate from the portfolio Krieg (War|, after 1923, 
reproductive lithograph, i^VtXii'A in. I40X 
31.8 cm). The Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, 
Beverly Hills. 


R O T E R S 



Van Hoddis 1987. 300ff ; Heym 1968, 390-438. 


There were six issues of Das neue Pathos privately 

published in Berlin in 1913 and 1914. another issue 

was planned for 1914 — that date is still blazoned on 

the title page — but it appeared only in 1920. An 

editorial endnote by Paul Zech in that issue reads: 
This third issue closes the second year of this 
periodical. Work began on it in May 1914 and 
was concluded in July 1920 What came be- 
tween was army service on the part of all the 
contributors, the editors, and the publisher. 
From our small circle the battlefield clainned its 
victims, who paid for Germany's collapse with 
their lives. We mourn for Waldemar Roesler. 
Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele. Karl Krebs, Walter 
Boetticher. and Gerriet Engelke. who were blood 
of our blood, and for their shattered hopes, 
which were our hopes also. No less do we 
lament the loss of Richard Dehmel, Heinrich 
Lautensack — and Emile Verhaeren. What they 
created for this paper will stand firm and 
unshakable, as a memorial for future, and per- 
haps more physically tranquil, generations. 


Zweig 1913. 1. 3. 


For the genesis of the term Expressionismus. see 

Gordon 1966 and Manheim 1986. 

landscapes. The young poets of Der Neue Club had been calling themselves Neo- 
pathetiker since the middle of 1910."^ The word Pathos summed up the urban and 
eschatological concerns of the young artists of the generation born in the 
mid-i88os. Underlying it there was a feeling of forlornness and isolation in the 
face of the future. 

Das neue Pathos (The new pathos) was the title of a literary and artistic 
periodical edited by Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele, Robert Schmidt, Meidner, and Paul 
Zech (who was also the publisher), which survived for only a few issues. ''^ The 
first issue, which came out in 1913, begins with a statement by Stefan Zweig setting 
out the aims of the enterprise: 

The primal poem, the poem that was composed long before there was writing 
or printing, was nothing but a modulated cry, hardly even language, a cry of 
pleasure or pain, grief or despair, remembrance or invocation, but always in 
an onrush of feeling .... It is in our own time that there seem to be signs of 
an impending return to this original, intimate contact between the poet and 
the hearer, and that a new pathos [ein neues Pathos] is once more emerging.'*'' 
A few exceptions apart, the poems do not fulfill this program. "Onrush of feeling" 
or not, they mostly remain, from a formal point of view, within a fashionable or 
conventional framework. Meidner's accompanying wash drawings, inserted as 
loose sheets, are far more fiery. 

The phrase neues Pathos might have served as a name for an epoch. It did 
not, ultimately, prevail, but at the time it was a real rival to the newly coined term 
Expressionismus'^^ and remains an evocation of the spirit of the apocalyptic land- 
scapes of Ludwig Meidner. 


Catalogue of the Exhibition 



Catalogue of the Exhibition 

Numbers in boxes 

refer to essay illustiations. 


Die Abgebrannten (Heimatlose) 

The Burned-Out (Homeless) Ones 


Oil on canvas 

24'yi6X33%6 in. (63x85 cm) 

Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg 

Apokalyptische Landschaft 

ylpocaJyptic Landscape 



Jungei Mann mit Strohhut 

Young Man with Straw Hat 


Oil on canvas 

37X42''/i6 in. (94x109 cm| 

Private collection 

Los Angeles only 

Biennendes (Fabiik) Gebaude 

Burning (Factory) Buildings 


Oil on canvas 

i8y8Xi9"/i6 in. (46x50 cm) 

Collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art 


Apokalyptische Landschaft 

Apocalyptic Landscape 



Portrat eines Mannes 

Portrait of a Man 


Oil on canvas 

263/8X30% in. (67x78.5 cm) 

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 

Apokalyptische Landschaft 

ApocaJyptic Landscape 






Oil on canvas 

26'/iX3i'/2 in. [67.3x80 cm) 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 


Ich und die Stadt 

1 and the City 


Oil on canvas 

23V8Xi9"/i6 in. (60x50 cm) 

Private collection 


Apokalyptische Landschaft (Beim Bahnhof 

Apocalyptic Landscape (Near the Halensee 

Railroad Station) 



Portrat Willi Zierath 

Portrait of Willi Zierath 


Oil on canvas 

32'/i6X38yi6 in. (81.5x97 cm) 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 

gift of Clifford Odets 



Apokalyptische Landschaft 

Apocalyptic Landscape 


Oil on canvas 

3iy8X45'/4 in. (79x115 cm) 

Private collection 

Der Jiingste Tag 

The Last Day 


Oil on canvas 

39y8X59yi6 in. (100x150 cm) 

Berlinische Galerie, Berlin 




Die Gestrandeten 

The Stranded Ones 



I5?4x20'/i6 in. (40x52.3 cm) 

Museum Ludwig, Cologne 



Wannsee Railroad Station 


Ink with white highlights 

i8'/i6X23'/4 in. (46.5x59 cm| 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 

The Robert Gore Rifkind Center 

for German Expressionist Studies 





Chinese ink on paper 

2l'Axi7V4 in. (54.6x45.1 cm) 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 



Schrecken des Krieges 

Horrors of War 


Ink and wash 

i6yi6X20'/i in. (41.5x52 cm) 

Kunstbesitz der Stadt Marl 



Apokalyptische Szene 

Apocalyptic Scene 



i4'5/i6Xi5'/i6 in. (37.6x39.5 cm) 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 



Ohne Titel (Strassenszene) 

Untitled (Street Scene) 


Pen and ink on paper 

i8%xi6 in. (48x40.6 cm) 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 

gift of Rabbi William Kramer 


Figur in nachtlicher Strasse 

Figure in the Street at Nigit 


Brush and reed pen and India ink over 

black chalk 

i8'/i6X23'/i6 in. (45.9x58.7 cm) 

The Cleveland Museum of Art, 

Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 

Los Angeles only 



Apokalyptische Stimmung 

Apocalyptic Mood 


Graphite on cream paper 

23'/8Xi8 in. (58.7x45.7 cm) 

The Saint Louis Art Museum, 

gift of Morton D. May 

Los Angeles only 


Apokalyptische Vision 

Apocalyptic Vision 


Ink and graphite 

215/8X173/16 in. (54.9x43.6 cm) 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 




Betrunkene Stiasse mit Selbstbildnis 

Drunken Street with Self-Portiait 


Ink with white highlights 

l8'/8X23'/8 in. (46x58.8 cm) 

Saarland-Museum, Saarbriicken 



Wogende Menge 

Surging Crowd 



I0'yi6x85/i6 in. (27.1x21.2 cm) 

Stadtische Kunstsammlungen, Darmstadt 






Ink and pencil 

25?46Xi9"546 in. (64.9x50.6 cm) 

Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, 



Stiasse in Wilmersdorf 

Street in Wilmersdorf 



153/8 Xi8"/i6 in. (39x47.5 cm I 

Collection of the Grunwald Center 

for the Graphic Arts, Wight Art Gallery, 

University of California, Los Angeles, 

gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley I. Talpis 


Nachtliche Strasse in Berlin 

Street in Berlin at Night 


India ink with brush and pen over graphite 

i8'/4X2i"/i6 in. (46.3x55.1 cm| 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 

Sophie M. Freedman Fund (1986.9) 




Ink and wash drawing 

23%6X27y2 in. (59.5x69.8 cm I 

Bernd Freese 


Bombardement einer Stadt 

Shelling of a City 


India ink, pencil, and tempera 

i7"/i6X22'/i6 in. (45x56 cm) 

Berlinische Galerie, Berlin 


Am Vorabend des Krieges 

The Evening before the War 



23x175/16 in. (58.5x44 cm| 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Recklinghausen 


Explosion auf der Briicke 

Explosion on the Bridge 



22'/i6Xi6Vi6 in. (57x43 cm) 

Galerie Valentien, Stuttgart, Konigsbau 



Title page and two plates from 

the portfolio Krieg (War) 

After 1923 

Reproductive lithographs after eight original 

drawings by Ludwig Meidner (seven drawings 

dated 1914, one 1923I 

Plates printed at Rob, Glaus, Dresden, 

and published by A. R. Meyer-Verlag, 


Sheet size: 155/4X12'/! in. (40x31.8 cm) 

The Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, 

Beverly Hills 


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Meidner 1914. 

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Meidnek 1917. 

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Meidner 1918A. 

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Meidner 1918B. 

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Ludwig Meidner. Im Nacken das Sternemeer. Leipzig: Kurt Wolff, n.d. [1918]. 

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Ludwig Meidner. "The Young Modigliani." Burhngton Magazine 82 (1943): 87-91. Revised and translated 

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Georg Miiller, 1959. 

Meidner 1964. 

Ludwig Meidner. "Ein denkwiirdiger Sommer." Der Monat 16, no. 191 (August 1964): 75. 

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Milan and Munich 1968. 

Milan and Munich: Galleria del Levante. Die Pathetiker: Janthur. Meidner, Steinhardt. Exh. cat. 1968. 

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County of Los Angeles 
Board of Supervisors, 1989 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 
Board of Trustees, Fiscal Year 1989 - 90 

Edmund D. Edelman 

Michael D. Antonovich 
Deane Dana 
Kenneth Hahn 
Peter F. Schabarum 

Richard B. Dixon 

Chief Administrative Officer 

and Director of Personnel 

Julian Ganz, Jr. 

Daniel N. Belin 

Mrs. F. Daniel Frost 

Chairman of the Executive Committee 

Charles E. Ducommun 
Vice President 

Robert F. Maguire iii 
Vice President 

Eric Lidow 

Mrs. Barbara Pauley Pagen 

Earl A. Powell in 

Honorary Life Trustees 
Mrs. Anna Bing Arnold 
Edward W. Carter 
Mrs. Freeman Gates 
Mrs. Nasli Heeramaneck 
Joseph B. Koepfli 
Mrs. Rudolph Liebig 
Mrs. Lucille Ellis Simon 
Mrs. Lillian Apodaca Weiner 

Mrs. Howard Ahmanson 
William H. Ahmanson 
Howard P. Allen 
Robert O. Anderson 
R. Stanton Avery 
Norman Barker, Jr. 
Mrs. Lionel Bell 
Dr. George N. Boone 
Donald L. Bren 
Mrs. B. Gerald Cantor 
Mrs. Edward W. Carter 
Hans Cohn 
David Geffen 
Arthur Gilbert 
Stanley Grinstein 
Felix Juda 

Mrs. Elizabeth A. Keck 
Mrs. Dwight Kendall 
Mrs. Harry Lenart 
Steve Martin 
William A. Mingst 
Dr. Franklin D. Murphy 
Sidney R. Petersen 
Joe D. Price 
Hiroyuki Saito 
Richard E. Sherwood 
Dr. Richard A. Simms 
Nathan Smooke 
Ray Stark 

Mrs. John Van de Kamp 
Frederick R. Weisman 
Walter L. Weisman 
David L. Wolper 
James R. Young 
Julius L. Zelman