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A Love. Max Klingers impact on modern art

12 October 2007 to 20 January 2008

The Hamburger Kunsthalle presents major works by Max Klinger and demonstrates his influence on later generations of artists

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Max Klinger’s (1857–1920) birth, providing a welcome opportunity for the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig to explore the artist’s profound influence on European art at the turn of the 20th century in a jointly organised exhibition. The large-scale display A Love. Max Klingers impact on modern art examines Klinger’s pivotal role and for the first time documents his influence on many leading Symbolist, Surrealist, Naturalist and Art Nouveau artists. Occupying more than 1,000 m2 of exhibition space at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the exhibition includes over 200 artworks, including some 60 paintings and 12 sculptures.

A Friendship. Max Klinger and the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Besides numerous works on loan from Leipzig, the exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle is supplemented by works from the museum’s own extensive collection, the foundations of which were laid by its first director, Alfred Lichtwark. Refusing to be swayed by criticism of the artist, Lichtwark tirelessly promoted Klinger’s work and thus became not only one of his most important supporters but also a close friend. Klinger often came to Hamburg on his invitation. Lichtwark’s aim was to mount an extensive presentation of Klinger’s work in its own space: “If we had a room to spare in the Kunsthalle, I would suggest giving it to Klinger for a wall decoration combined with some of his paintings and sculptures.” Lichtwark admired Klinger for his modernity and his “singular fantastic vision”. In his view, the Leipzig-based artist was particularly important due to his prominent position as a German “peintre-graveur” who had contributed significantly to the revival of graphic art in Germany and aroused the interest of collectors as a result. In the 28 years of his directorship, Lichtwark purchased a total of 235 works of graphic art by Klinger, including many famous series of etchings such as “Eve and the Future” and “Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove”. In 1902 he successfully acquired seven of the murals Klinger had made in 1883/84 for the villa of Julius Albers, a junior lawyer at the Superior Court of Justice in Berlin. This purchase enables us to present a stunning new exhibit alongside his outstanding graphic works: for the very first time, the Klinger room in the Villa Albers has been reconstructed for the current exhibition in Hamburg.

A Love. Max Klinger…
The exhibition opens with a selection of major works by Max Klinger, including “The Blue Hour”, the “Bust of Cassandra” and series of etchings such as “A Love” and “Eve and the Future”. Klinger’s naturalistic impetus and Symbolist aesthetic, and above all his influence on the Surrealists, have yet to receive the attention they deserve. In his prints, Klinger wanted to express the “barely imagined”, the “dark side of life”, as he wrote in his theoretical essay “Malerei und Zeichnung” (Painting and Drawing), published in 1891, and as such he can be regarded as a precursor of Surrealism. Giorgio de Chirico described Klinger as “the modern artist par excellence”: “The image is a dream and reality at the same time,” he commented upon Klinger’s etching “Accorde”. Klinger’s etchings also had a profound influence on Max Ernst: in his collage novels such as “Une semaine de bonté” he employed images from 19th-century artworks, including Klinger’s boundless visual worlds of nightmares and phanstasms.

…and his impact on modern art
Klinger’s profound impact is illustrated by the second major focus of the exhibition, involving paintings and graphic works by Max Beckmann, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin and Edvard Munch among others.

The six sections of the exhibition highlight Klinger’s pictorial themes and show how the other artists refer or allude to him in their works. The scope of these references varies from direct quotation through to the further development of his conceptual visual strategies.

1. Dreams and nightmares
2. The Blue Hour
3. Artistic forms of social commentary
4. The clothes of nakedness
5. The feeling of unease towards women
6. The objective of all life is death

“Klinger in Mind”: limited edition print portfolio
A print portfolio entitled “Klinger in Mind” was produced to mark the opening of the exhibition in Leipzig, featuring prints made by ten contemporary artists in memory of Max Klinger. The edition was very quickly sold out. Now a new portfolio entitled “Klinger in Mind II” is being produced to accompany the exhibition in Hamburg, containing works by Martin Assig, Stephan Balkenhol, Gustav Kluge and Daniel Richter among others. It will be issued in an edition of 40, at a price of € 2,500 per portfolio. The proceeds will be put towards the elaborate restoration of Klinger’s painting “Christ on Olympus”, which is held in the collection of the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.

Exhibition catalogue
A comprehensive catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition, with essays by Ursel Berger, Felix Billeter, Christian Drude, Annegret Hoberg, Werner Hofmann, Richard Hüttel, Jürgen Pech, Petra Roettig, Gerd Roos, Michael Scholz-Hänsel, Aya Soika and Andreas Stolzenburg among others. Featuring around 320 illustrations, it has been edited by Hubertus Gaßner and Hans-Werner Schmidt and published by Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld/Leipzig. The catalogue is available for 39€ from the Hamburger Kunsthalle museum shop and at
The exhibition has been curated by Richard Hüttel (Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig) and Petra Roettig (Hamburger Kunsthalle), and was previously presented at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig (March – June 2007).

Supported by

Max Klinger - Erstes Intermezzo, 1879

Max Klinger
Erstes Intermezzo, 1879
© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig

Max Klinger - Die blaue Stunde (L heure bleue), 1890

Max Klinger
Die blaue Stunde (L’heure bleue), 1890
© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
© Photo: Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Ursula Gerstenberger

Max Klinger - Sirene

Max Klinger
Sirene (Triton und Nereide), 1895
© Villa Romana Florenz 2007

Max Klinger - Bianca

Max Klinger - Bianca, 1890
© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig

Max Klinger - Tote  Mutter

Max Klinger, Tote Mutter
© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
© Photo: Harald Richter, Hamburg

Max Klinger - Untergang

Max Klinger - Untergang, 1884
© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
© Photo: Harald Richter, Hamburg

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