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The virtuoso German printmaker, painter and sculptor Max Klinger inspired both Giorgio de Chirico and the early Surrealists. In January the Print Room will be exhibiting an unusual series of prints by Klinger from its own collection, with a glove in the leading role.
In Berlin in the spring of 1878, the then twenty-one year-old Max Klinger (1857-1920) exhibited a series of fascinating drawings under the title Phantasien über einen gefundenen Handschuh, (Fantasies on a Found Glove). The young German artist had become obsessed with a lady’s glove left behind at a roller-skating rink in Berlin. The glove inspired ten prints with sensual undertones, printed in 1881. We see the glove as it is about to be picked up, as an unattainable object of desire and as a source of disturbing nightmares.
The prints featuring the glove are one of Klinger’s best-known series. In the exhibition in the Print Room these etchings will be accompanied by some thirty other prints from the museum’s collection. One of them, Tote Mutter (Dead Mother) of 1889, shows the poignant image of a young woman who has died, lying on her death bed, with a small child sitting on her breast. The scene is as dramatic as it is comforting; the death of an individual may be terrible, but the human species will survive.
Max Klinger was trained in Karlsruhe and also lived and worked in Munich, Brussels and Paris. In 1887 he met his great exemplar, Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901), in Berlin. After a number of years spent travelling through Europe, Klinger returned to Germany and settled in his birthplace, Leipzig, where he became an important figure in German cultural life. Klinger was admired in his own time for his virtuosity and drawing skills. That these prints were in black and white was no accident; Klinger maintained that painting was intended to express beauty and to glorify the world. Printmaking, by contrast, was ideally suited to fantasy and to recording the dark side of life. Klinger’s work was of profound influence on the generation of artists that followed him. He is sometimes seen as the link between nineteenth-century Symbolism and the early Surrealists of the twentieth century. It was the Greek-Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) who was most impressed by Klinger’s mysterious power of expression.
The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Print Room has a world-famous collection of 15,000 drawings and 65,000 prints. It includes drawings by German, Dutch, French and Italian masters. The collection is considered one of the best in the world, with works by such artists as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Bartolommeo, Rubens, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Degas and Cézanne, and by contemporary artists like Yayoi Kusama. These prints and drawings cannot be on permanent display because of their sheer number and their sensitivity to light, but the curators regularly stage exciting temporary shows in the Print Room’s exhibition space.